Thursday, April 26, 2012

Weekend in Lucerne

Greetings All,
We have mentioned our compadres at Nestle before- our friend, Kathy organized a trip to Lucerne which we understand to be one of the most visited spots in Switzerland. 
It has all the usual stuff- seen one Alp you have ... But there was a special beauty and freshness that comes with winter finally coming to a close. 

Arriving at the Lucerne Train Station.

Lucerne (German: Luzern-or pick from among at least 6 or 8 spellings depending on what you are viewing)) is a city in north-central Switzerland in the German-speaking part of the country.  The city developed around the Monastery of St Leodegar(who was the Patron Saint of Lucerne) in the eighth century. It is the capital of the Canton of Lucerne and the capital of the district of the same name. With a population of about 76,200 people, It is the most populous city in Central Switzerland. The city's metropolitan area consists of 17 cities and towns located in three different cantons with an overall population of about 250,000 people.
The city is divided by the Reuss (pronounced "royce") River, which flows out of Lake Lucerne.  Due to Lucerne's location on Lake Lucerne and within sight of Mount Pilatus and Rigi in the Swiss Alps, it has long been a destination for tourists. It was voted the fifth most popular tourism destination in the world in 2010 by Tripadvisor.

Our first view of Lake Lucerne (Lake of the Four Forested Cantons) with the ever present swans. The swans originated as a gift from King Louis XIV in appreciation for the protection the Swiss Guard provided him.

Mount Pilatus (Pilate) overlooking Lucerne.  

The structure in the middle is the Haus Zur Gilden.  It is located on the northern bank of the Reuss River and is the last building before the river flows into the lake. The most impressive part of the building is the round tower with pointed spire. The building was home to the Zur Gilgen family and many famous people have stayed there over the years including Victor Hugo. The building was destroyed by a fire in 1495 but was rebuilt between the years 1506 and 1510. 

More Alps overlooking Lucerne.  Mount Rigi on the left and Mount Pilatus on the right.

The Nestle group we traveled with-from the left, Kathleen, John, Ash, Jen, Patty, Hans and Paula.  You will also notice that the "little animal family" traveled with us.
The Town Hall with the clock in the background.

Beginning in 1356 and ending in the mid 19th century, the ground floor of this building was where grain was stored.  Since 1447 the upper parts of the building served as town hall. 

The Town Hall Tower Clock. 

Oh surprise-another Suisse clock tower!The clock tower was built in Renaissance style at the beginning of the 17th century.  It houses one of the largest clocks in Europe.

The Fritschi Fountain

This fountain was built in 1918.  Though actually less than 100 years old, the fountain stands in the tradition of much older Renaissance style fountains with painted allegoric figures on top. The figure on top of the Fritschi Fountain is not Fritschi himself, but a standard bearer. The 4 column masks on the column represent Fritschi, his wife, a nursemaid and a servant. There are 4 fools spewing water from goat horns near the base.

The story of the legendary Brother Fritschi plays an important role in Lucerne's Carnival tradition. The legend which goes back to around 1450 and the most probable explanation is that there was a farmer (or farmhand) living outside town making jokes whenever he came to town. (maybe Swiss' version of a story teller like Abraham Lincoln.) His grave is under this fountain, on the medieval graveyard attached to St. Peter's Chapel. Medieval town clerk and chronist Cysat reports that Fritschi left some money to the Safran guild (a Trade Guild) on condition that they serve wine to the poor during Fasacht (Carnival). The guild is still fullfilling this obligation today and has dedicated one story of their guild rooms to Brother Fritschi (wine for the homeless-interesting mission).

Cathedral of St. Leodegar

St. Leodegar was founded in the mid-8th century, part of the monastery which in turn founded Lucerne. A Gothic church preceded the existing German Renaissance building, but was largely destroyed by fire in 1633. Only the towers, St. Mary's altar and a few religious objects remain in the existing 17th-century building.

Today it is both a monastery church and parish church.

A picture of Lake Lucerne waterfront.

Boat dock on Lake Lucerne. We are taking a boat to the city of Weggis.

The spires of Cathedral St Leodegar and the waterfront area from Lake Lucerne.

Picture of Mount Pilatus from the boat.
Legend dictates that it is named for Pontius Pilate, whose body is supposedly in one of the lakes.  More likely, the name comes from a Latin word meaning "cloudy" (today living the Latin legend).  Legend also has it that the mountain is infested with dragons.

Sail boats enjoying a day on the lake, with the Alps in the background.

Picture of the Alps on our way to Weggis.

Arriving at Weggis.  Notice the cable car in the middle of the picture.  We rode the car up Mount Rigi (Queen of the Mountains).

Flowers in bloom in Weggis.

All Saints Chapel.

On our way to catch the cable car we passed this small chapel.

The interior of the All Saints Chapel.  Some of the frescoes date from the early 17th century. The pieta and room for about 3 dozen visitors was unexpected based on the diminutive outside appearance.

A view of Lake Lucerne from the cable car.

We rode the cable car to Rigi-Kaltbad, which was its termination point.   We were at an altitude of 3,031 feet.  This picture was taken as we hiked from Rigi Kaltbad to Rigi-Staffelhohe.

This picture was taken from Rigi-Staffelhohe, looking east from Lake Lucerne, with Lake Zug in the background.

Later at the Lion Monument in Lucerne.
The initiative to create the monument was taken by Karl Pfyffer von Altishofen, an officer of the Swiss Guard who had been on leave in Lucerne at that time of the massacre. He began collecting money in 1818.
The monument was designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen and carved into the cliff face, of a former sandstone quarry, by Lukas Ahorn in 1820-21.  The sculpture is 33 feet long and 20 feet tall. It commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution.
From the early 17th century, a regiment of Swiss mercenaries had served as part of the Royal Household of France. On October 6, 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 August 10,1792 insurrection, revolutionaries stormed the palace. Fighting broke out spontaneously after the Royal Family had been escorted from the Palace.  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.
The monument is dedicated Helvetiorum Fidei ac Virtuti ("To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss"). The dying lion is portrayed impaled by a spear, covering a shield bearing the fleur-de-lis of the French Monarchy; beside him is another shield bearing the coat of arms of Switzerland. The inscription below the sculpture lists the names of the officers, and the approximate numbers of soldiers who died (DCCLX = 760) and survived (CCCL = 350).

The Museggmauer (Musegg Wall) Also know as the “Old City Walls”

The wall was constructed between 1370 and 1442 to protect the town. Today, the remaining wall, almost totally intact, measures 2,850 feet in length, is an average of 30 feet high, 5 feet thick and has nine towers.  There is a walkway on top of the wall and three of the towers, Schirmer – named for the hill behind it;  Zyt - the clock tower and Mannli – named for the metal man on its top, remain open to the public.

The oldest clock in the city, dating from 1535, was designed by Hans Luter and is housed in the Zyt tower. The dial and numbers are large so that the fishermen, on Lake Lucerne,  could tell what time it is. The clock runs by stone weights and pendulums and is still in perfect working condition.  In honor of being the oldest clock in the city, the clock's bell is allowed to chime one full minute before every other clock in the city.

Three of the nine towers that are on the wall.  The second one is Zyt, which holds the clock.

We walked the wall and climbed the towers and I was really impressed with the clock works in the Zyt tower.  The stone weight on the end of the pendulum must have weight at least 50 pounds.

A view of the city and the Alps from the wall.

A view of Lake Lucerne and the Alps from the wall.

A typical Lucerne house with a fresco. 

St Peter's Chapel.

St Peter’s is a Lucerne landmark and of considerable historical importance. It is Lucerne’s oldest church and was built in 1178 when a priest was appointed to take care of the population. Always subservient to the 8th century Benedictine St Leodegar monastery, it never became the parish church. 

Mills Bridge (Spreuerbrücke)
Sunday morning and a weather break. 
There are nine bridges which span the Reuss River to connect the town.  The two most famous are the Mills Bridge and the Chapel Bridge.
The Mills Bridge was constructed in 1408, 75 years after the Chapel Bridge. Originally, it connected Mühlenplatz (the town mills) and Pfistergasse (the baker’s quarter). The Mills Bridge also served as part of the city fortification. In medieval Lucerne, it was the lowest bridge and the only one where people were allowed to throw wheat chaff (Spreu) into the river.  This is how the bridge got its name.

On the rafters, under the roof, are 67 paintings dating from 1626 to 1635 by Gaspar Meglinger, which are entitled "Dance of Death".  These begin on the northern bank side with a little verse:

    All living things that fly or leap
    Or crawl or swim or run or creep
    Fear Death, yet can they find no spot
    In all the world where Death is not.

The succession of images shows a grinning skeleton. The theme is that it does not matter who you are--- kings, gallant princes, lawmen, nuns, merchants, prostitutes, peasants, maidens, everyone alike ---you were at the mercy of the Plague, at the mercy of Death itself. These pictures help remind us of how fragile human life can be to the many forces of nature. The final panel, predictably enough, shows a majestic Christ vanquishing bony Death.

There is a small chapel on the bridge, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which was added in 1566 to protect the bridge against destruction by floods.

Each of the 67 painting included a skeleton.  As the townsfolk crossed the bridge daily, these scenes provided vivid reminders that nobody can escape death (an especially poignant message in times of war and plague, when these were painted).

Another of the many paintings.

The Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke)
Long the symbol of Lucerne, this covered wooden footbridge, across the Reuss River, connects the two sides of the town. Built in 1333 as part of Lucerne's fortifications, it was to protect the city from attack from the south, the lakeside.  The bridge is 560 feet long and crosses the river diagonally.  It was named after the nearby St Peter’s Chapel.  It is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, as well as the world's oldest surviving truss bridge. The octagonal Water Tower (Wasserturm), built around 1300, has been used as a prison, a torture chamber, and an archive.
The bridge has always been known for its paintings that hang from its arched roof. They depict events from Lucerne's history including the town’s two patron saints, St Leger and St Maurice.  Many of the paintings were done in 1599 by Catholic painter, Heinrich Wagmann.
The bridge was damaged by a fire in 1993 and 85 of the 110 pictures, under the roof, were destroyed; only 25 could be saved or restored. The others have been replaced by pictures from the second part of the bridge that had been safely stored since 1834. A few burnt panels can still be seen as a reminder of the fire.
Lucerne city officials directed that copies be made. After a $2.1-million reconstruction, this landmark bridge was reopened in the spring of 1994.

This one features a legendary and formidable giant, an icon of Lucerne you will see all over town.  This giant dates back to the Middle Ages, when mammoth bones discovered locally were mistakenly identified as the bones of a 15 foot tall human giant.

Another of the many paintings on the bridge.

Jesuit Church

Lucerne's Jesuit Church is the first large baroque church built in Switzerland north of the alps. First and foremost is an expression of the Catholic Church's 17th century struggle to regain spiritual leadership in the counter-reformation At the same time it does show, that the Catholics then refused to accept any discussion on major points of criticism by the protestant churches. Instead, baroque architecture displays power and glory and emphasizes exactly those parts of Catholic tradition (especially the veneration of saints).
There is perfect logic that Lucerne, seeing itself as the capital of the Catholic fraction of Switzerland in pre-modern times, should have constructed this building. Today, Jesuit Church is a major tourist attraction and serves as a concert hall while it has become almost irrelevant to local church life from a religious point of view. There are other churches in the city, that better express the beliefs of Swiss Catholics, after the Second Vatican Council.

Another view of the Jesuit Church.

We also toured the Rosengart gallery.  In this gallery, the "ONE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED" was abiding by the rules and did not take any pictures.  

The Rosengart Collection comprises well over 200 works by 23 different "Classic Modernist" artists. These include over 100 works by Paul Klee and some 50 by Pablo Picasso. Other artists represented include (in alphabetical order) Bonnard, Braque, Cézanne, Chagall, Dufy, Kandinsky, Laurens, Léger, Marini, Matisse, Miró, Modigliani, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Rouault, Seurat, Signac, Soutine, Utrillo and Vuillard.  

I am sure you have seen some of Picasso's works.  Even after seeing more of his paintings, I still don't understand what makes them "great" art. Seems like stuff our grandchildren have already mastered. 

We really recommend Lucerne to all the future travelers and hope to return. 

1 comment:

  1. It seems you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned your grandchildren being able to paint like that or visa verse, they paint like your grandchildren. It's their challenge to paint as a child. Try it some time. It's really hard.