Venture across the historical Chapel Bridge in Lucerne and get a front-row seat to the history of the city. Splendid paintings make crossing this wooden bridge a one of a kind experience.
Switzerland is not all chocolate, fancy knives, and expensive watches! This small European country has a large amount of history and impressive architecture. One of its many historical treasures is the Kapellbrücke, Chapel Bridge in English, a wooden footbridge spanning across the Reuss River. This symbol of Lucerne is only a short walk away from Radisson Blu Hotel, Lucerne and gives a first-hand look into the history of the city.
A long walk across the river
What is now one of Switzerland’s main tourist attractions was built in 1333 as part of Lucerne’s fortifications. Chapel Bridge’s purpose was to link the old town, resting on the north bank of the Reuss River, to the new town on the south bank. Even though it was initially 200 meters long it is now only 170 meters in length, due to numerous shortenings and river bank replenishments. It is the oldest surviving truss bridge in the world and consists of strutted and triangulated trusses of moderate span.
Chapel Bridge is not only famous for its length but also the marvelous paintings covering the roof of the walkway. Painted triangular frames tell different tales of the city’s rich history, varying from the life and death of Lucerne’s patron saint St. Leger to legends of its other patron saint St. Maurice. These artworks were made during the Counter-Reformation of the 17th century by local artist Hans Heinrich Wägmann and were painted on spruce wood boards.
Art rarely comes cheap and these intricate works of art were no exception. They were financed by having members of the city council sponsor a painting, enabling the members to include their personal coat of arms in the piece. Below each painting hangs an explanation of the story it tells.
Painted pieces of history
Up until 1993 the bridge had a grand total of 147 paintings under its roof but on August 18th of that year disaster struck. A fire ravaged the bridge, destroying two thirds of the paintings. After the fire, 47 paintings were collected but only 30 of them were fully restored. The damaged paintings were then replaced with paintings that had been safely stored since 1834.
These intricate drawings make for an impressive sight as you make your way across the bridge. Make sure to stop and appreciate these pieces of history. If visiting to check out these awesome pieces of art, then bear in mind you won’t be able to see the paintings during the festive Carnival days. From late January through early February the paintings are replaced with modern ones showing carnival themed pictures.
Resting on the river
The tower you see standing tall beside the bridge is the 43 meters tall Wasserturm, literally meaning “Water Tower”. It was named due to its location in the water and has never been used to store water. The tower has been used as a prison, torture chamber and later a municipal archive. Today it houses a local club but it is not possible to climb the tower. There is a souvenir shop located inside which is open to the public.
When planning a trip to Switzerland, Lucerne's Chapel Bridge is one of Switzerland's top places to visit. Its history and intricate paintings make for a unique sight where it rests on the Reuss River. Remember your camera!