Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Touching the Dying Lion

Have you ever written an extensive research paper about a specific place, monument, or memorial? We have all gotten used to putting hours on end into a word document, drinking loads of coffee, and walking out of our bedroom for the first time in a week with a completed masterpiece. Ever ask yourself why put so much effort into something you will probably never see in person? But you do know if you ever had the chance to see such in person, the experience would be magical. I got to experience just that. In the Spring of 2015, I wrote a historical paper on the significance and meaning of the sculpture and memorial of the Dying Lion of Lucerne located in Luzern, Switzerland.

The Dying Lion of Lucerne

Welcome to Glacier Garden
After writing fifteen pages of well-crafted ingenuity, I knew just about everything about this lion. When it was built, why, the small and hidden aspects deep within the work itself and what it stood for. This lion as I argued represented the emergence of Swiss democracy as an opposition to the French Monarchy. Birthed in 1821, only 6 short years after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the Congress of Vienna had enacted the rebirth of European monarchies. The Swiss wanted no part of this and although a war memorial to the Swiss Guards killed in the French Revolution at the Tuileries Palace, it evolved into something significantly more. With its paw trapping the French fleur de lys, the dying lion is crushing the old monarchy as the Swiss shield of democracy stands untouched behind him. The Lion itself symbolizes revolution and is a revolutionary himself. I presented the paper I produced at the Phi Alpha Theta Conference in Hawaii and won runner up for best Undergraduate paper. So you can see how attached I am to this topic. Shortly after I arrived in Germany, I was offered a chance to travel to Switzerland and see the majestic lion in his cove myself. I would not pass this up. I will take you on my journey as I entered the gardens of the Löwendenkmal. 

The Gang ready to take on Luzern
The sun was shining. It was warm and the city streets of Luzern were busy. Farmers’ Markets control the bridge and everyone was smiling and happy. It almost seemed like a dream. I approached the gates to the garden where the lion slept. The trees shaded the alcove and the atmosphere was calm. Tourists from all over the globe were there to witness the majestic lion just as I had intended. So many people, but so little noise. A small hill stood between me and the lion himself. I climbed to the top and there he was. Within his cove, a spear through his abdomen, sad, but courageous, dying, but strong. A tear fell from my face into the crystal pond beneath him as I exclaimed: “Finally, finally I got to meet you.” Having the opportunity to see something you researched for over 3 months in person is just a spectacular feeling. You feel the history. You breathe the history. Hell, you become part of the history. What an opportunity!

The funniest part about this experience you ask? I strolled into the gift shop to buy my own personal lion monument after my visit and presented my paper to the cashier. She gave me 50% off!!! :D

I concluded my paper with some fine words that I would like to share with you. Below is Mr. Mark Twain’s interpretation of the Dying Lion of Lucerne. His comments sum up exactly how I felt as I entered the garden.

The Lion lies in his lair in the perpendicular face of a low cliff—for he is carved from the living rock of the cliff. His size is colossal, his attitude is noble. His head is bowed, the broken spear is sticking in his shoulder… a clear stream trickles from above and empties into a pond at the base, and in the smooth surface of the pond the lion is mirrored, among the water-lilies…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.” ~ Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad 

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