Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lion of Lucerne

This lion wood carving is called the "Lion of Lucerne".   It was carved most likely in Victorian time, possibly a souvenir from Lucerne.   It is carved with "To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss".

The Lion of Lucerne was a statue built to commemorate the courage of the Swiss mercenaries who died defending the Tuileries Palace in Paris from the revolutionaries in 1792.  You can find this mournful lion with a stake driven through him in plaques and pieces like mine.   The carving is in the stone cliff of a sandstone quarry near Lucerne.  It is was designed by Danish sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen.

Photo by Andrew Bossi from Wikipedia

Wikipedia has this background on it:
From the early 17th century, a regiment of Swiss mercenaries had served as part of the Royal Household of France. On 6 October 1789, King Louis XVI had been forced to move with his family from the Palace of Versailles to the Tuileries Palace in Paris. In June 1791 he tried to flee abroad. In the 1792 10th of August Insurrection, revolutionaries stormed the palace. Fighting broke out spontaneously after the Royal Family had been escorted from the Tuileries to take refuge with the Legislative Assembly. The Swiss Guards ran low on ammunition and were overwhelmed by superior numbers. A note written by the King has survived, ordering the Swiss to retire and return to their barracks, but this was only acted on after their position had become untenable. Of the Swiss Guards defending the Tuileries, more than six hundred were killed during the fighting or massacred after surrender. An estimated two hundred more died in prison of their wounds or were killed during the September Massacres that followed. Apart from about a hundred Swiss who escaped from the Tuileries, the only survivors of the regiment were a 300 strong detachment which had been sent to Normandy a few days before August 10. The Swiss officers were mostly amongst those massacred, although Major Karl Josef von Bachmann — in command at the Tuileries —was formally tried and guillotined in September, still wearing his red uniform coat. Two surviving Swiss officers achieved senior rank under Napoleon.

Mark Twain called it the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.   I think about that as I look at my carving resting on my desk.   "To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss".  It is a symbol of brave soldiers everywhere.  

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