The Lion Monument
The Lion Monument (German: Löwendenkmal) is a sculpture located in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen, and then carved in 1820-1821 by Lukas Ahorn, it commemorates the dead Swiss mercenaries in the service of King Louis XVI of France in 1792 when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris.
The writer Mark Twain described the sculpture, depicting a mortally wounded lion as the "stone room saddest and moving the world."
Since the beginning of the seventeenth century, a Swiss Guards regiment made up of mercenaries used as part of the House of the King of France. October 6, 1789, King Louis XVI was forced to move with his family from the Palace of Versailles to the Tuileries Palace in Paris. In June 1791, he tried to escape to Montmedy.
During the day of August 10, 1792, revolutionaries stormed the palace. Fighting breaks out spontaneously after the Royal Family was exfiltrée Tuileries to take refuge with the National Legislative Assembly. The Swiss Guards, short of ammunition, are overwhelmed by opponents in higher number. A note written by the king, who was found, ordered the Swiss Guards to withdraw and return to their barracks, but this was only taken into account when their position was untenable.
Among the Swiss Guards defending the Tuileries, more than 600 were killed in the fighting or massacred after their surrender. An estimated 200 others died in prison of their wounds or were killed during the following September massacres.
Aside from a hundred guards managed to flee the Tuileries, the only survivors of the regiment are a detachment of 300 men sent to Normandy a few days earlier.
The Swiss officers among the dead guards, although Major Karl Josef von Bachmann - at the controls of the Tuileries - was formally tried and guillotined in September, still wearing his red uniform coat. Two Swiss officers who survived reached a higher rank under Napoleon.
The initiative to create a monument was taken by Karl Pfyffer von Altishofen, an officer of the guards who was on leave in Lucerne at the time of the events. He begins to raise money in 1818.
The project is designed by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen and hewn in 1820-1821 by Lukas Ahorn, in the cliff of an old sandstone quarry near Lucerne. It measures ten meters long and six meters high.
The monument bears a Latin dedication Helvetiorum Fidei ac Virtuti (At the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss). The dying lion is presented impaled by a spear, covering a shield bearing the lily of the French monarchy; another shield beside him carrying the arms of Switzerland. An inscription on the sculpture lists the names of the officers and the approximate number of dead soldiers (DCCLX 760) and survivors (CLSC or 350).
Laying the lion is copied in 1894 by Thomas M. Brady for his Lion Confederation located in the Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta (United States).