Lucerne, chief town of the Canton, and one of the three Vororter, or alternate seats of the Diet, lies at the North West extremity of the Lake of Lucerne, and is divided into two parts by the river Reuss, which here issues out of it.
Whereas many of Murray’s notes (and title) in his “Hand-Book For Travellers In Switzerland 1838” seem be lifted from Ebel’s massive four volume 1823 “Handbuch für Reisende in der Schweiz”, which was obviously aimed at those with incredibly large hands, much of his description of Luzern seems to be influenced from an article published two years previous in “The Saturday Magazine” (No. 205, September 12th 1835).
In that article, it explains that the “Vorort”, the name given to the temporary home of the Swiss government, the Diet or Tagsatzung, as it was known, would be located in Luzern during 1837 and 1838, the time that Murray visited.
Zurich had been the capital of the Swiss Confederation in the 15th Century, with Lucerne taking the role for the Catholic cantons, following the Protestant Reformation. When Napoleon invaded the country, turning it into the Helvetic Republic in 1798, Aarau was temporarily made the Capital for six months before Luzern took the role for the entire country.
With the disbanding of the Helvetic Republic, in 1803, and the creation of Switzerland as we know it today, the Vorort rotated between Aarau, Zürich, Bern, Luzern, Fribourg, Solothurn and Basel – making the E.U.’s farcical monthly move from Brussels to Strasbourg look rather efficient.
By 1815, everybody agreed that this arrangement was stupid, and the choice of Vorort was restricted to Zürich, Bern and Luzern, with each being the Swiss capital for two years at a time. It wasn’t until 10 years after Murray’s book went to print that Bern became the permanent seat of the Government and sole capital of Switzerland.
Its population is about 7500, all Catholics, except about 180 Protestants. Lucerne is the residence of the Papal Nuncio.
Luzern was the most powerful of the Catholic cantons in 1837 and was home to the Pope’s ambassador to Switzerland.
Whilst much of the country became Protestant after the Reformation, Luzern, even to this day, remained staunch Catholic, with 60% of the population ticking the box on the last census. The 180 Protestants might have increased by 9,000 but they still only make up 15% of the population, being outnumbered by atheists and those of no faith.
Following the closure of various Catholic churches by the Diet, ten years after Murray’s visit, on 3rd November 1847, Lucerne was joined by fellow conservative Catholic cantons Fribourg, Valais, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Zug in a civil war against the fifteen more liberal cantons (including fellow Catholic cantons Ticino and Solothurn), who were seeking to bring the Confederation closer together. Lasting barely three weeks, the Sonderbund War was quickly won by the Swiss Confederates (who excluded neutral Appenzell Innerrhoden and Neuchâtel, both of which were made to pay compensation to the wounded veterans, as punishment for their chickenshit approach).
By the time Luzern had surrendered on the 24th November, only 86 of the 180,000 combatants had been killed (60 Swiss Confederates and 26 Catholic Sonderbund), thanks largely to the reluctance of the commanders from both sides of being sent into battle against their fellow countrymen. This stance is best remembered for the charm offensive played by Confederate Commander Henri Dufour, who, as well as refusing to equip his troops with more powerful rockets, to “avoid as far as possible to give this war a violent character which cannot but harm our cause”, also passed some battle plans along to the Catholics to avoid needless bloodshed.
Perhaps the World would be a much safer place today, had George W. Bush taken the same approach in his battle for hearts and minds.
The Battle at Gisikon, just outside of Luzern, was the most bloody, with 37 dead and over 100 wounded. It was the first battle in military history in which horse drawn ambulances were employed, with nurses from Zurich treating both sets of wounded on the battlefield. Such humanitarian actions led to the creation of the Red Cross by Swiss businessman Jean-Henri Dunant in 1859, of which Dufour would be one of the original “Committee of the Five” members.
Excluding the time in 2012 when a Swiss Guard accidentally cut himself with his own halberd whilst tying his shoelace outside the Vatican, and another, in May 2014, whilst holidaying in Barcelona with his family, had his Victorinox Swiss Army Knife stolen on La Rambla, Gisikon remains, to this day, the last battle in the history of the Swiss military. The victory of the Confederates basically went on to shape Switzerland into the country we know and love today.
Anyway, I’ve digressed by ten years; let’s return to Luzern in 1837…
It is not a place of any considerable trade or manufactures, but their absence is more than compensated by the beautiful scenery in which it is situated on the borders of the finest and most interesting of the Swiss lakes, between the giant Pilatus and Righi, and in sight of the snowy Alps of Schwytz and Engelberg.
Indeed, it is this location that still makes Luzern Switzerland’s most popular tourist destination and a description in Woldemar Raden’s incredible tome, “Switzerland It’s Mountains And Valleys”, published forty years after Murray’s Handbook, even takes pity on it, for its lack of masculine manufacture:
“Lucerne, has no trade, and her chief occupation consists in managing her hotels and attending to her summer visitors – not a very arduous one, it must be confessed; but this is no discredit to her, being merely a natural result of her past history, which has at times led her through dark paths under the guidance of aliens, and those who were enemies of the fatherland. But no doubt in time Lucerne will develop her many resources and become all that she ought to be.”
Between the guidance of the strict Catholic Church, the liberal Protestant-leaning Diet, and now “aliens”, you could forgive the people of Luzern for being a petrified bunch who spent their days looking up at the sky waiting to be struck down or beamed up at any minute, dare they step out of line.
The town is still surrounded by a very picturesque circle of feudal watch-towers, and is walled in on the land side;
This description still applies 180 years later and the Museggmauer wall, originally built in 1386, is still almost entirely intact.
There are nine towers, all still in use, with the Männliturm (Little Man Tower), the Wachturm (Watch Tower), Zytturm (Time Tower) and Schirmerturm, all open to the public.
The Zytturm houses the oldest clock in the city, built in 1535, and, because of its grand old status, chimes, every hour, one minute ahead of all the other clocks in the city.
but its chief peculiarity is the number and length of its bridges.
In this day and age, the advancements in engineering allow bridges to be built almost anywhere, but back in Murray’s time, the four bridges over the Reuss were as famed for their number as they are today for their beauty.
The lowest, or Millbridge, is hung with paintings of the Dance of Death;
At the foot of the old city wall is the Spreuerbrücke, dating back to the 13th Century and connecting the mill on the right bank to that in the middle of the river. Today it acts as a footbridge from Mühlenplatz to the Baseltor gate with its Natur-Museum and Historisches Museum.
45 of the original 67 painted wooden panels, dating back to 1616, still hang proudly in the wooden roof of the bridge. It is said that this was the most famous “Dance of Death” fresco in the world at the time, largely inspired by Hans Holbein the Younger’s famous wood cuttings in Basel, almost 100 years earlier.
Depicting the dead as skeletons, summoning people from all walks of life to dance along to their grave, the “Danse Macabre” first appeared in Paris in 1424 and has gone on to inspire various artists, together with famous pieces from the world’s greatest composers; Franz Liszt, Camille Saint-Saëns, Gustav Mahler, Benjamin Britten, and Bruce Dickinson.
A historic wooden Nadelwehr (needle dam), which controls the level of the lake, runs alongside the bridge.
The second, or Reussbrücke, is the only one uncovered and passable for carriages;
Just a few dance steps along the river from Spreuerbrücke, the metal Reussbrücke links Krongasse with Kramgasse on both sides of the Old Town, with a fine view obtained from the various benches placed along it.
A plaque on the wall of the adjoining Koch bakery says that the beautiful Sonnenberg House im Zöpfli was acquired by Marshal Jacob Anton Thüring von Sonnenberg in 1787 for his son Alfonso, the spoilt Koch!
Ignoring the pretty Rathaussteg footbridge, which was introduced long after Murray’s visit, the next bridge is amongst the most famous in the world:
The upper, or Capel-brücke runs in a slanting direction across the mouth of the Reuss, whose clear and pellucid sea-green waters may here be surveyed to great advantage, as they rush beneath it with the swiftness of a mountain-torrent.
Flowing out of the lake at great speed (more noticeable at the Spreuerbrücke), the water remains just as “clear and pellucid” as it passes under Kapellbrücke, the oldest covered wooden bridge in Europe, which was built in 1333.
Against the timbers supporting the roof of this bridge is 77 pictures;
There were actually 110 triangular pictures in the roof of the bridge at the time of Murray’s visit, 48 less than previously displayed before the bridge was shortened from its original path (here) to the steps of the Jesuitenkirche in 1835, and 86 more than survived a devastating fire in 1993.
Started by a cigarette thrown into a boat moored underneath the bridge, and accelerated by spider webs, the fire engulfed the bridge not long after midnight on the 17th August 1993, destroying two thirds of its historic structure, including 86 of the original 17th Century paintings.
Incidentally, I had walked over the bridge the evening before, as a spotty 18 year old on a backpacking holiday around Europe. Being the days before mobile telephones and the Internet, the first I learned of the fire was on my weekly phone call home, via the payphone at a campsite which consumed Swiss Francs quicker than a FIFA delegate; my parents having read about it in the English newspapers shortly before my postcard with its picture had arrived.
Today, the bridge has been rebuilt with 30 of the 47 recovered pictures restored. The 25 removed paintings, from when the bridge was shortened in 1835, have been rehung in place of some of those lost and, despite 148 copies being made of the original pictures, a public referendum decided that only the originals be displayed, with the charred remains of those tragically lost kept in place, as a reminder of that awful night.
Because of this recent fire, Murray’s description of the paintings is slightly outdated:
Those seen in crossing from the right to the left bank represent the life and acts of St.Leger and St.Maurice, Lucerne’s patron saints.
Originally created in the 17th century by local painter Hans Heinrich Wägmann, the paintings were made to promote the Catholic church at a time when it was under attack from the Protestant Reformation.
Crossing from St. Peters-Kapelle and the Pickwick Pub to Luzern Theatre and the Jesuitenkirche, the life and veneration of the city’s two patron saints are depicted in all their glory.
Leodegar of Poitiers – not to be confused with The St.Leger donkey race – was a Catholic priest from AD 650 who, in falling out with his arch enemy, Ebroin, the evil Frankish Mayor of Neustria, had his eyes gouged out, the sockets burnt with red hot irons, his lips chopped off and his tongue cut out, before being imprisoned in Normandy.
Still, it could have been worse; Normandy is a beautiful place to be imprisoned, especially in summer.
A few years later, following a false trial in which he presumably employed a lawyer to speak on his behalf, he was finally taken into a forest near Calais and murdered in a contract killing requested by Ebroin.
As well as being the patron saint of Luzern, a city he never visited, he is also the patron saint of eye troubles; something he was far more familiar with.
As for the other dude in the paintings, I tell the story of St.Maurice in Route 16, the obstinate Roman legion leader who ignored instructions to engage in wanton slaughter of fellow Christians and was decimated for his disobedience. Ironically, he is also the patron saint of gout, an equally excruciating form of torture, with which I am currently suffering as I write this from my sickbed, a packet of frozen peas wrapped around my ankle, as punishment for the 25 delicious cocktails I drank last night, whilst judging a cocktail competition.
I’m presuming, like Leodegar, Maurice too was canonised for martyrdom, rather than the incredible miracle of being able to change from a black African to a white European, some 1500 years after his death in the eyes of Catholic artists and sculptors.
The subjects of those seen in the opposite direction as taken from Swiss history, and are not without some merits.
The history of Luzern and the Swiss Confederation was shown in the paintings on the opposite side, from William Tell and his Golden Delicious, to Swiss mercenaries fighting for foreign money, and FIFA Presidents carrying sealed envelopes and suitcases of banknotes. Sadly, most of these were lost in the fire.
Near the middle of the Capel-brücke, rising out of the water, stands a very picturesque watch-tower, called Wasserthurm, forming a link of the feudal fortifications of the town.
Predating the bridge by 30 years, the “Water Tower” has been used over the years as a prison, a torture chamber, a library and, today, is home to a tourist gift shop, flogging postcards, watches, cuckoo clocks, stuffed marmots and other clichéd tat, to the hordes of Chinese, Indians and Arabs, who have largely replaced the Brits, Americans, and Japanese, ever since the Swiss Franc became too strong for a fortnight’s vacation.
Apparently, an artillery association is based in the tower above but, given that the swans, ducks and seagulls appear unperturbed on the water below, they can’t be a very good shot.
It is said to have once served as a light-house (Lucerna) to boats entering the Reuss, and hence some have derived the present name of Lucerne.
Murray’s 1837 version of false news? Whilst it is true that “Lucerna” is also Latin for “lamp”, the area around the city was known as “Luciaria” when the Roman Empire fell, some 600 years prior to any sailors worrying about crashing into the bridge, but it’s a romantic snippet nonetheless.
Today, the Kapellbrücke may be one of the most photographed landmarks in Switzerland, however it’s crazy to think that, back in 1837, it would not have even been the most impressive bridge in Luzern.
That title was reserved for the now destroyed Hofbrücke, of which I can only rely on Murray’s description to understand the magnitude of its standing. I headed to the middle of the modern Seebrücke road bridge, built in 1870, long after Murray’s visit, and looked out over the lake to the spot where it would have crossed:
The Hofbrücke, the longest of all the bridges, was originally 1380 feet long, but has lost 300 feet since 1835. It extends across the lake, within a few feet of the shore to the church of St. Leodegar, and the Convent and Court (Hof) of its former abbots.
Looking towards the famous Hotel Schweizerhof, on the left, it’s easy to picture where the bridge would have stood as the road, on the opposite side of the line of trees, takes exactly the same path, having replaced the bridge in 1852.
Taking 15 years to build, from 1352 to 1365, the Hofbrücke originally extended from where the Hotel Zum Rebstock now stands, at the foot of the Hofkirche steps, all the way to where the pedestrian crossing now sits outside the Restaurant Schwanen, an incredible 385 metres.
Inspiring the Spreuerbrücke and, later, the Kapellbrücke, it was decorated with a series of 239 triangular wooden paintings, dating back to the mid 1500’s.
The paintings in its roof illustrate the Scripture.
“Lessons for every heart; a Bible for all eyes.”
I love this sketching of the Hofbrücke from 1820, not least as it is a painting which required the artist, Johann Jakob Meyer, to paint six other paintings within it. It makes me wonder what he would have done had the style of these been completely different from that of his own.
Unlike the bridge itself, 113 of its triangular ceiling paintings have been preserved and stored in depots.
It commands a charming view of the lake, the Alps, the Righi, and the Pilatus.
This view can now obviously be had from the quayside, which began to replace the remaining section of the bridge with the construction of the Hotel Schweizerhof in 1844. By 1852, the entire bridge had been demolished and superseded by the new quay, remaining, to this day, one of the most popular lakeside promenades in the whole of Switzerland.
Near the middle of it is an index painted on a board, the diverging lines of which point to the different mountains and peaks visible from hence, each of which is named for the convenience of strangers.
At the same point on Schweizerhofquai now sits a graffitied “index painted on a board, the diverging lines of which” would, if you could make them out, “point to the different mountains and peaks visible from hence, each of which is” tagged by a selfish lowlife “for the” in“convenience of strangers.”
By the time of Murray’s visit, the bridge had been shortened and redirected to end at Schwanenplatz, where the famous Bucherer store now stands.
A considerable portion of ground has been gained from the lake by curtailing this bridge, and throwing out a sort of quay; the new Inn of the Swan stands on this space.
This is also the landing place of the steamboat.
Schifffahrtsgesellschaft des Vierwaldstättersees (thankfully abbreviated to SVG), first operated a steamboat on the lake in the very same year Murray visited (1837), and still sail from close to this landing place today.
The oldest ship in their large fleet is the Paddle Ship Uri, which first set sail in 1901.
The lakeside promenade takes the route of the Hofbrücke to the steps of the Hofkirche, with its iconic twin spires.
In churches and other public buildings Lucerne has no very prominent objects, though several which are highly pleasing as monuments of the progress of the nation, and of its manners and customs, exist.
Bloody Hell, it takes a lot to impress Murray!
Whilst he doesn’t namecheck them, I presume he was referring to the baroque Jesuitenkirche St. Franz Xaver, down by the Kapellbrücke, dating back to 1633, and the 16th Century St. Peters-Kapelle, at the opposite side of the bridge.
He does, however, find time for the important Hofkirche St. Leodegar.
The church of St.Leger, Hof-, or Stifts-kirche, is a modern building, except the two towers, which date from 1506.
When he says “modern building”, Murray means 1638, just a mere 200 years prior to his visit. The reason the towers outdate the main building can be blamed on the Book of Genesis:
Genesis 1:21: “So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good…
“Except when it is constantly shitting on your roof. Then it is bad.”
And so it was, on Easter Sunday, 1633, a Rentokil pest control officer, tasked with shooting jackdaws that had nested in the church roof – a task surely approved by God – accidentally burnt down the 9th Century complex when his shot sparked a fire in the dry wooden roof.
Murray doesn’t go into much further detail about the impressive church, which is ornately decorated with various statues and images of the city’s two patron saints, Leodegar (the disfigured priest) and Mauritius (the Roman legion leader).
The church was actually built on the spot of an old monastery dedicated to St.Mauritius, which had been donated in AD 735 by the cartoon pig, Pepin The Short, King Of The Franks (Frank Sinatra, Frank Zappa, Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Stapleton, Frank Sidebottom, Frankenstein, Anne Frank, French Franc, and Swiss Franc).
Following a series of leveraged buyouts, it finally fell into the hands of Alsace-based multinational church operator, Abbaye de Murbach SARL, who introduced their own patron saint, St. Leodegar, to the franchise.
Maurice is depicted in all his military clobber, throughout the rich decorations, whilst Leo still has both his eyes intact, although for some sick reason, like all those around him, he seems to be brandishing a drill. Two huge wooden carvings appear of both on each of the impressive doors, which opened automatically as I approached.
At first I thought this was some kind of miracle – although, with two patron saints to choose from, I couldn’t be sure which to attribute it to. Maybe there was a God after all, and this was his way of beckoning me into his inner sanctum to repent my sins (although with five minutes to the church closing time, he was pushing it fine).
Sadly it turned out to be just an electric motor with a sensor but I was happy to see that whilst the church could no longer cure lepers and invalids, they were at least making prayer wheelchair friendly, especially given all that St.Leo had gone through to get his sainthood.
The adjoining churchyard is filled with quaint old monuments, and the view from the cloister windows is fine, but similar to that of the bridge.
Whilst the “quaint old monuments” remain, “the view from the cloister windows” has largely been blocked by the backs of the tall modern buildings that have been erected between the church and the lake.
The Arsenal, near the gate leading to Berne, is one of those venerable repositories common to the chief towns of all the cantons, in which are deposited the muskets, artillery &c., for arming their contingent of troops.
Built in 1568 for weapons, grain and salt storage, the Alte Zeughaus served as the canton arsenal until as recently as 1983, before making way for the Historische Museum Luzern, a theatrical museum with actors celebrating the history, culture and folklore from the canton. In truth it’s just a warehouse full of the most random objects you can think of. Like a random search on eBay for “antique” and sort by “Highest Price First” – which incidentally, throws up more than a few items at over $20,000,000 which I’m sure the Historische Museum Luzern currently have saved on their Watch List.
It contains some rusty suits of ancient armour and several historical relics and trophies of Swiss valour, such as the yellow Austrian banner, and many pensions of knights and nobles taken at the battle of Sempach; the coat of mail stripped from the body of Duke Leopold of Austria, who fell there; the iron cravat, lined with sharp spikes, destined for the neck of Gundeldingen, the Schultheiss and general of the men of Lucerne, who died in the hour of victory.
Amongst numerous weapons and uniforms from the 13th century, many of the items viewed by Murray in 1837 are still on display amongst the 3,000 objects from the museum’s 20,000 piece collection, including the metal shirt of Duke Leopold III of Habsburg and one of the most important flag collections in Switzerland.
There’s numerous examples of “the iron cravat, lined with sharp spikes” used as a painful method of shame for petty criminals, although there’s no mention of Schultheiss Gundi.
Also seemingly missing, or correctly relabelled since Murray pointed out their dodgy description…
A sword of William Tell, and a battle-axe, borne by Ulric Zwingli, at the battle of Cappel (Route 16), are of very doubtful authenticity: though the malice of the enemies of Zwingli may have led to the assertion that he took active part in the fight, it is believed that he assisted his countrymen merely with exhortations and consolations of religion.
Likewise, gone, are..
Several Turkish standards deposited here were captured at the battle of Lepanto, by a knight of Malta, who was a native of Lucerne.
Instead the museum is celebrated for its large collection of captured flags from the 10.000 strong Milanese army, defeated by just 600 Swiss, 100 years earlier at the Battle of Giornico in 1478.
My favourite item though was a bicycle, dating back to 1935. It was supposedly ridden from Schwyz, over the Furka Pass, to Zermatt in one day, a distance of some 175km over some of the toughest mountain climbs in the country, where its owner then climbed the Matterhorn and rode home again. An impressive feat, if true, even by today’s standards although I approached the tale with as much scepticism as Murray had for some of the other exhibits.
The Stadt Haus, on the right bank of the Reuss, a little below the Capel-brücke, is the place of meeting of the Diet, whose sittings are open to the public. The Council Of the canton also assembles in it.
A new bridge crosses the river to the beautiful Altes Luzerner Rathaus, with its medieval tower. Built in the style of the early Florentine Renaissance, it is still used today by the city council, whilst its riverside arches house a brewery. Various objects from the old town hall, including fourteen Christoph Murer glass-plated windows, dating back to its opening in 1606, can be found over at the Historische Museum Luzern.
General Pfyffer’s model (in relief) of a part of Switzerland may interest those who desire to trace on it their past or future wanderings; but it is not so extensive nor so well made as that at Zurich; besides which 1 fr. 50 c. is demanded for admission – decidedly more than it is worth.
I adore Murray’s grumpy honesty and I wondered how many Victorian travellers, also following his Handbook, actually thought, like me, “fuck it, he’s been wrong on everything else he’s slagged off!”, and still paid the entry fee regardless.
Although, I must admit, at CHF 15 entrance fee to the Gletschergarten Luzern, where it is now stored, I too balked at whether entry would be “decidedly more than it is worth.”
Next to the Lion Monument, The Glacier Garden was opened in 1873, some 35 years after Murray called by, when Josef Wilhelm Amrein-Troller stumbled upon a 20 million year old glacier in his wine cellar.
The huge “model (in relief)” can now be found in what the cellar of the rather big house Joe was able to build as a result of the garden’s popularity. Pre-dating the invention of the train, let alone model railway sets, it was created by General Franz Ludwig Pfyffer, who obviously had far too much time on his hands between 1749 and 1786.
It’s the oldest mountain relief in the world, and remains an incredibly impressive piece of cartography almost 270 years later.
I tried to head to Murray’s next destination but got lost somewhere within the Mirror Maze, built in 1898 in the style of Granada’s Alhambra. It took me around four hours to get out of that thing, and only then, after leaving breadcrumbs to help me. I think I actually passed through Granada at one point.
The Gothic Fountains which are to be observed in all parts of Switzerland are here of singular beauty and originality.
Apparently, there’s around 225 fountains in Luzern however the best example of one that prefers apocalyptic punk music, is probably the beautiful Neptunbrunnen at Mühleplatz.
The fountain at Weinmarkt is said to be oldest, and possibly dates back to 1332, although nobody knows for sure. Obviously with “the number and length of its bridges” the residents of Luzern were too pre-occupied to notice, and by the time they came to document it, there was confusion as to whence it first appeared.
“Hey, does anybody know when this fountain was erected?”
“I’m not sure Johann. It wasn’t there this morning.”
At Meyer’s shop, near the Swan, books, prints, panoramas, and maps, relating to Switzerland, may be had in great profusion.
Given the size and weight of books back then, not least his own published “Handbook”, and that travelling in 1837 would have been hard work, involving poor road conditions and limited space for carrying possessions, usually in non-waterproof canvas cloth bags; I doubt that many of Murray’s readers would have stocked up their reading material in “great profusion”.
I’ve not been able to locate Meyer’s shop, however the area is now surrounded by large stores packed with more expensive gifts (and hordes of frivolous Chinese tourists with an apparently generous baggage allowance), where “Rolexes, Rados, Breitlings, and Omegas, all made in Switzerland, may be had in great profusion.”
One of the most interesting of the sights of Lucerne is, without doubt, the Monument to the memory of the Swiss Guards, who fell while defending the Royal Family of France in the bloody massacre of the French Revolution, August 10, 1792. It is situated in the garden of General. Pfyffer, about half a mile outside the Weggis gate.
Even today, photographs fail to do justice to the scale of the Löwendenkmal, and you can only imagine the reaction of readers to Murray’s guide when they set their eyes on the colossal monument for the first time, most of which would have only had his description to help form their preconceptions.
The design is by Thorwaldsen, executed by Ahorn, a sculptor of Constance.
I’m not sure how Ahorn executed Thorwaldsen, however I wouldn’t be surprised to learn if it was by a hammer blow to the back of his head or a chisel through the heart of the Dane.
It represents a lion, of colossal size, wounded to death, with a spear sticking in his side, yet endeavouring in his last gasp to protect from injury a shield bearing the fleur-de-lis of the Bourbon, which he holds in his paws.
The figure, hewn out of the living sand-stone rock, is 28 feet long, and 18 high, and it’s execution merits very great praise.
The amplitude and level of greatness of this statue – and anything else for that matter – can be grasped just by the simple fact that even the consistently miserly Murray describes it as meriting “very great praise”.
Beneath it are carved the names of the soldiers and officers who fell in defending the Tuileries Aug 10, 1792. The loyalty and fidelity of this brave bunch, who thus sacrificed their lives for their adopted sovereign, almost makes us forget that they were mercenaries, especially standing forward, as they did, as the protectors of Louis and his family, at a moment when deserted, or attacked, by his own natural subjects.
Perhaps this is the most famous reminder that, throughout history, the Swiss have been more than happy to fight other people’s battles, provided the money was right, and their bought loyalty, steadfast bravery, and diligence to the job, was far stronger than the patriotism shown by their adopted comrades.
What some would call bravery, others would call stupidity, and it is perhaps the realisation that you can still earn money in times of conflict, by not actually participating, that has lead them to being the oldest neutral country in the world (1815) and a nation of bankers.
During the French Revolution of 1789, Louis XVI and his family were forced to leave Versailles and were kept under surveillance at the Palais des Tuileries in Paris, which was next to the Louvre.
Not long after the king had finished eating his cornflakes on August 10th 1792, the Republican National Guard, together with revolutionaries from Marseille and Brittany stormed the palace, which was being guarded by 950 veteran Swiss mercenaries, 930 gendarmes, 2000 royalist national guards, 200–300 Chevaliers de Saint Louis, and other royalist volunteers.
With Louis fleeing bloodshed through the palace gardens, his national guards leaving with him for protection, there was little incentive left to protect the palace. The gendarmerie deserted their posts, crying “Vive la nation!”, with many other guards deciding to join their Republican counterparts, who were advanced by a mob of men, women, and children, all armed with gardening tools and kitchen utensils.
As the 20,000 strong Marseillais stormed the building, all the remaining French loyalists surrendered or switched allegiance, leaving just the Swiss Guards to defend the Palace from the inside.
“Surrender to the Nation!”, shouted Republican General François Joseph Westermann in German.
“We should think ourselves dishonored!” came the somewhat stupid reply, “We are Swiss, the Swiss do not part with their arms but with their lives. We think that we do not merit such an insult. If the regiment is no longer wanted, let it be legally discharged. But we will not leave our post, nor will we let our arms be taken from us.”
A 45 minute stand-off ensued, during which the Swiss threw down some of their cartridges as a token of peace, the French urging them to surrender. Then all hell broke lose.
Firing from above, the Swiss repelled the insurgents, killing up to 400, including hairdressers, laundry-men, tailors, hatters, shoemakers, painters and decorators, harness-makers, carpenters, joiners, locksmiths, domestic servants, artisanal toothpick makers and IT support analysts.
Following such an unjust ambush, the French, including many of the surrendered royalists, quickly developed a violent hatred towards the Swiss and returned in greater numbers.
Louis, hearing the gunshots from where he was hiding at the bottom of the garden, instructed the Swiss via Whatsapp to lay down their arms and retire to their barracks, an order they ignored, knowing to do so, would mean certain death.
It wasn’t long though before they ran out of ammunition and those Swiss Guards unable to escape through the back garden of the Palace, were carried off to the Town Hall, and put to death beneath the statue of Louis XIV.
Of the nine hundred, six hundred were killed in battle or massacred after surrendering. Two hundred more died in prison or during the September Massacres that followed. The monarchy collapsed and France became a Republic. Six years later, Switzerland was under the rule of Napoleon.
There is a quiet solitude and shade about the spot which is particularly pleasing and refreshing.The rocks around are mantled with fern and creepers, forming a natural frame-work to the monument; and a streamlet of clear water, trickling down from the top of the rock, is received into a basin-shaped hollow below it, forming a mirror in which the sculpture is reflected.
Mark Twain describes this spot best in my favourite book, “A Tramp Abroad”, 1880:
“Around about are green trees and grass. The place is a sheltered, reposeful woodland nook, remote from noise and stir and confusion — and all this is fitting, for lions do die in such places, and not on granite pedestals in public squares fenced with fancy iron railings. The Lion of Lucerne would be impressive anywhere, but nowhere so impressive as where he is.”
One of the very few survivors of the Swiss Guard, dressed in its red uniform, now rusty and patched, resides in a cottage hard by, as a guardian of the monument and cicerone to the stranger.
Apart from about a hundred Swiss, who avoided capture and execution by escaping through the Verbena and the Laurels in the back garden of the Tuileries, the only survivors of the regiment were 300 lucky troops who had been sent to Normandy to escort a grain convoy a few days before the 10th August.
The cottage, occupied by one of the survivors, still stands proud, next to the monument, within the Gletschergarten.
The cloth for the altar of the little chapel adjoining was embroidered expressly for it by the Duchess d’Angoulême.
The tiny chapel at the entrance to the park goes unnoticed by the hordes of tourists. Well, I say unnoticed. The attention I was showing to it, in research for this book, seemed to be a magnet to a crowd of Chinese tourists, who each took it in turns to copy my attempts at taking a photograph of the altar through the locked door’s window, presumably clueless to the fact that it (once?) boasted the needlework of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s daughter.
There are many pretty walks and points of view near Lucerne; one of the best is the villa called Allenwinden, perched on the top of a hill outside the Weggis gate, from which it may be reached in a walk of 15 minutes, by a path winding up the hill outside the town walls.
The Weggistor was demolished in 1860 and the villa on Allenwindenstrasse is now privately owned and not accessible, however for “one of the best”, possibly better views (I guess I’ll never know), the nearby Schirmerstrasse overlooks the city walls and tower.
Gibraltar – a height on the opposite side of the Reuss, outside the Basle gate, also commands a fine prospect.
Whilst it offers one of the best views in the entire city, Villa Gibraltar is also privately owned and is only accessible as far as the footpath leading past its gate.
That said, the more impressive Schlössli Schönegg, also on Gibraltarain, “also commands a fine prospect” and is more accessible.
It seems somewhat appropriate that I used Google Maps to locate this 1893 Belle Epoque castle, as, since operating as a hotel until 1918. and a private school until 1971, it became an asylum centre in the 80’s, was taken over by squatters in the 1990’s and eventually was bought in 1998 by Endoxon (now Axon), the Luzern company which designed the software behind Google Maps.
Mount Righi, so celebrated for its panoramic view, is about 10 miles from Lucerne (I.e. the base of the mountain). To reach the summit will occupy at least 6 hours, exclusive of stoppages, from Lucerne. The number of hours will be lessened by taking advantage of the new steamer to Weggis.
I describe the ascent of the Righi in Route 17, however most people climbing the mountain from their base in Luzern nowadays, will take the 45 minute boat ride to Weggis or Vitznau first, or the 30 minute train journey to Arth-Goldau, and catch the incredible Rigi Bahn cog railway to the summit, rather than hike the 6 hours each way. Introduced in 1870, this was an incredible piece of engineering for its time, and with gradients of 25%, still remains impressive today.
So that travellers will regulate their departure accordingly, remembering that it is of much consequence to arrive at the top before sunset. There are several ways to it, by land, to Kussnacht and Arth; or by water to Küssnacht and Weggis (See Route 17).
Murray’s Top Tip still applies today and, from the city centre, you can reach Kussnacht, a 4 hour steep hike to the summit, in an hour by boat from Luzern, or just 20 minutes by train. A cable car is also available at Kussnacht to Seebodenalp, just an hour and a half walk from the top.
Arth-Goldau, 30 minutes train ride from Luzern, offers the most popular ascent, 4 hours hike on the 63 Hiking Path), or 45 minutes on the mountain railway,
Weggis is my favourite route, 45 minutes train or boat ride from Luzern and a wonderful 5 hour hike up the Mark Twain Trail, which traces the interesting path he hilariously describes in my favourite book, “A Tramp Abroad” . There’s also a cable car from here to Rigi Kaltbad, an hour or so’s walk from the top.
For many though, Vitznau is where they would depart the boat. An hour’s sailing or train journey from Luzern, where you can then join the mountain railway to the top of Rigi Kulm in just 30 minutes.
What is important to remember at this stage, is that “Murray’s Handbook For Travellers In Switzerland 1838” completely changed travel guidebooks forever. Rather than just being a collection of historical, geographical and, especially for the time, geological notes about the places featured, like all previous guides, usually released as large multi-volume books, it also included practical information for the traveller to follow, alongside Murray’s own recommendations and musings.
No one should leave Lucerne without exploring the beauties of its lake – so called in German Vierwaldstàdter See – the grandest in Europe, in point of scenery, particularly the farther end of it, called the bay of Uri ; and much additional pleasure will be derived if the traveller who understands German will take Schiller’s “Wilhelm Tell” as a pocket companion, in which admirable poem so many of the scenes are localized (Route 18).
As Murray says, details of the lake can be found in Route 18, as I followed his recommendation and made the hard effort of cycling around it before relaxing with a drink in hand and sailing upon it.
Those who intend to explore the lake, and visit the Righi, and to return afterwards to Lucerne, should combine the two expeditions, which may be effected in two days, thus go by land to Arth, or by water to Weggis, descending next day on the opposite side, and embarking on the lake, either at Weggis or Brunner. Sail up the bay of Uri, at least as far as Tell’s Chapel, and return by water to Lucerne the 2nd evening.
Nowadays, you can follow this tip in a day, especially if you use the cog railways, cable cars, trains, buses and boats.
To avoid being in a mad rush for the last connection home, it is better to spend two and a half hours on the early morning ship to Tellsplatte (“Tell’s Chapel” ) and from there make your way to the foot of the Rigi at Vitznau or Weggis by lake or land. You can catch the train or cable car up the mountain to make up lost time, and jump on the train down the opposite side of the mountain to Arth-Goldau, where trains run late back to Luzern.
It is also possible to start the climb by heading to Arth-Goldau instead, just as long as you are fast enough to catch the last ship onwards at the other side of the mountain.
A steamer was launched upon the lake of Lucerne in 1837. It plies regularly between Lucerne and Fluellen, calling at the intermediate places . Further particulars respecting it, and the hire of boats, which may be found in abundance on the shore opposite the Swan inn are given in Route 18.
The steamers had taken to the water the same year Murray visited and today takes just under 3 hours to reach Flüelen. Once a week, in the Autumn, all five paddle steamers gather for a ballet display of nautical formations and choreographed sailing.
The stunning Luzern station, opened on the edge of the lake in 1856 is now one of the busiest in Switzerland and acts as the main hub of the city, linking to most of Switzerland. Twenty years before it opened, when Murray visited, this was certainly not the case:
Diligences go daily from Lucerne to Aarau; Bàle; Berne, by Summiswald; Berne, by Entlibuch; Soleure; Zug and Zurich; 4 times a week to Schwytz, by Kussnacht and Arth.
Can you imagine running to catch the diligence to Schwyz and missing it by a matter of seconds, having to then wait a further 2 days until the next one turns up? Perhaps this is where the Swiss get their punctual timekeeping from.
Amongst many other destinations, frequent trains now go direct to Schwyz in 40 minutes and it takes barely an hour to Basel, Bern, Zug, Zürich, and Olten (where you can change for Aarau and Solothurn).
I always imagine what it would be like to time travel and approach the queue of people waiting at the diligence stop in 1837 and say to them, “Come here chaps, bring your luggage, I will transport you to Soleure in 1 hour and 2 minutes” and then watch their faces at the wonder of the modern train. That said, they would probably be more taken aback by the fact somebody had invented time travel and would no doubt question why I hadn’t used that to transport them to Solothurn instead of an hour’s train journey involving a platform change in Olten.
Mount Pilate is sometimes ascended from Lucerne, but the journey is difficult, occupying 6 ½ hours; the greater part must be performed on foot, and the view from the top is decidely inferior to that of the Righi.
I’m not sure if Murray was trying to put his readers off making this ascent, however, today, many tourists to Luzern make the “Goldene Rundfahrt” (Golden Round Trip), taking a steamboat to Alpnachstad and climbing to the summit on the steepest cog railway in the world, which opened in 1899, before coming down the opposite side on the cable car, and taking a bus back to Lucerne from Kriens.
As Murray’s notes were written fifty years previous, such an easy journey to the top was sadly out of the question for me, so I set off on the incredibly “difficult” journey by bike instead, described in Route 16.
LUZERN ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANTS:
Inns: Schwan – a new house, in the best situation, and good; in 1837 complaints were made that it was dear
Restaurant Schwanen above the Perosa store on Schwanenplatz, overlooks the lake with its Cafe de Ville offering terrace seating outside and a menu that, whilst good, in 2015 complaints could still be made that it is dear. They don’t offer hotel rooms.
Balances (Waage) – an old-established house, good, clean, and moderate charges. The four daughters of the late host take the management of the establishment, and the traveller will find in it extreme civility and most excellent attendance.
The chic 4 Star gourmet Hotel de Balances on Weinmarkt dates back to 1807 as “Wirtshaus zur Waage”, and was actually refurbished and renamed in 1837, the year Murray visited; going on to host the likes of famous Irish poet George Bernard Shaw, Princess Louise of Baden and, on numerous occasions, the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina. The restaurant boasts 14 Gault Millau points and is reasonably priced (5 courses for CHF 105, or 3 course lunch for CHF 45), although the rooms are no longer moderately charged, starting at CHF150.
The former grand Hotel Rossli is now a Co-op supermarket on the corner of Mühlenplatz and Rössligasse. It boasts a restaurant.
Whilst not exactly the same, you can still stay at a Guest House Roesli, at Pfistergasse 12, with rooms starting at CHF 80. Belonging to the Baslertor Hotel, you can use their summer pool too.
There is a good pension overlooking the lake close to the Kapel Brücke
Nowadays, the best fit for this is the popular English pub Hotel Pickwick, where I’m sure Murray would have gone to watch Preston North End beat Notts County to be crowned Champions of the first ever Football League, had he not arrived exactly 50 years too early and exactly 100 years before the first televised game. Unlike the beer, rooms are reasonably priced from CHF 90.
Alternatively, the excellent boutique Hotel des Alpes next door also fits the bill and offers a terrace restaurant too, serving regional dishes (3 courses from CHF 30). Rooms start at CHF 135.