Lions were—are—my high school’s mascot. Do I still have an affinity for them? I suppose. That whole drama of Born Free from my childhood, ya know? (You don’t know? Google it.). As I say in the About Me page, I observe a lot. Like, if you take a road trip with me, I’m gonna spend time asking, Did you see that? How about that? Whoa, cool, right?

Nah, I don’t talk non-stop, no worries there. What I will do is see things and mention them. Isn’t it awesome to catch the sun striking a maple leaf on an autumnal afternoon and turn it brilliant purple?

I think so. You don’t? Really? Are we friends?

After not going anywhere, or doing much of anything for eons, I traveled to Lancaster in south central Pennsylvania. Having gone to York College, Lancaster isn’t far from those stomping grounds, plus I have family there. This visit, my cousin thought taking me to the little town of Lititz would be a treat. It was delightful—especially when you include the aromas from Wilbur Chocolate.

Guess What I Observed

I espied the Lucerne Lion, there in Lititz Springs Park. Yes, that Lucerne, a train ride south of Zurich, as in Switzerland. That gorgeous town famous for the Chapel Bridge—a mostly* 650-year-old wooden structure spanning the Reuss River. Yes, that Lucerne and that lion.

From a distance, I told my cousin, “That looks like the Lucerne Lion.” What? Cousin asks. The statue is located diagonally from the visitor’s entrance to the park at the spring head. Ever ready for an adventure, my cousin and I traipsed off to investigate.

Lucerne Building art is widespread

Flipping through my iPhone photos, I’m back walking the tidy streets of Lucerne. The white-capped Alps tower above the rooftops and glisten off the lake. Artwork adorns random buildings. Chocolate is available everywhere. May sunshine envelopes me. I take it in, taking every bit of it in, seeing what I may not get to see again.

A fellow eating near us wearing an Andy Warhol t-shirt.

On a hill across the town is a hotel named Montana.

In the middle of a street facing the square is a Nespresso shop.

Lucerne is easy to like and makes wish you had more than a few days in the city. We didn’t get to hike or take the ferry around the lake. I want to walk inside the Musegg Walls again and re-read every plaque. And I want to learn about the Lion from a local historian.

The Poignancy of the Lucerne Lion

In A Tramp Abroad, Mark Twain writes about being moved he first time he saw the lion. Viewing the sculpture is a spellbinding experience–even before you know the story. Trying to fend off an attack on King Louis XVI in 1792, between 500-1,000** Swiss guard were killed protecting him. A Guard who was on leave in Lucerne, his home, spent many years in anguish over not being with his unit. He was the impetus behind the sculpture, which was unveiled in 1821. 

None of the history was known to us as we approached the green-hued pool in front of the statue. We stood in awe admiring the drama of the carved stone. The breadth of the water makes it difficult to understand the size of the lion. I’ve read it is 10 x 6 meters, meaning 32 (H) x 20 (W) feet. This link shows you a photo of the lion with a man standing with it. That provides a perspective on the scope of the sculpture. It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of research about the lion, but I managed to stop after bookmarking eight sites. 

During that rabbit-hold-run through Google-land, I discovered there is another lion in Atlanta and one in Missouri. There are probably more copies around the world. For some bizarre reason, on Vatican(.com) you can purchase small replicas. The second cast of the lion is kept at the Thorvaldsens Museum, now on my list of places to go since I’ve never been to Copenhagen!

Back to the Lucerne Lion of Lititz Spring Park

Julius Augustus Beck, of Lititz, wanted to replicate The Lion when he began the sculpture. He soon discovered that the rock was far too hard and stopped after carving the head. Unprovoked by the Lion, in 2005 some imbecile beat its face into near oblivion. I can find no explanation for his actions. Irreparable, the destruction gave the town the opportunity to commission and complete Beck’s dream. A large replica was carved from granite, installed, and dedicated in 2006.

Original Lititz Springs Park Lion head that was vandalized
Original Lititz Springs Park Lion head
Lititz Springs Park Lion replica
replica large Lititz Springs Park Lion

That’s the lion that captured my roving eyes!

About Those Observations

Reading and watching a lot about World War II might explain where I picked up, head on a swivel. It goes beyond situational awareness to situational scrutiny. Making observations stems from the desire to see and retain the smallest of details. It’s the same as being able to recall a decade after losing my parents, the heartiness of their laughter. 

Lions (tigers and bears, oh my?) are grand animals. Seeing the Dying Lion of Lucerne in a tiny park in Pennsylvania was a surprise and a treat. These connections make our worlds shrink, bringing people together across oceans and snowy Alps.

What will you see today?

*There was a fire in 1993 that destroyed 110 of the 147 paintings contained in the bridge. Thankfully, the town saved the bridge heads and stone water tower. Community-mindedness saw the bridge rebuilt in a record eight months. Note: I was impressed by the wheelchair lifts located on each end.

(**Depends on the source.)

Read, Historic House Tours of Lancaster