Sunday – city visit. Our campground is only 14km from Lucerne so it was an easy drive into the city. We were early enough so there were few visitors around. Having picked up a town guide at the campground we were set to go. We decided to walk the suggested tour route of the city.
A little history first:
It is believed that the city was founded in 1178 although there had been a significant monastery in the area prior to that. The city gained importance as a strategically located gateway for the growing commerce from the Gotthard trade route. By 1290 Lucerne had become a self-sufficient city of reasonable size with about 3000 inhabitants. About this time King Rudolph I von Habsburg gained authority over the Monastery of St. Leodegar and its lands, including Lucerne. The populace was not content with the increasing Habsburg influence, and Lucerne allied with neighboring towns to seek independence from their rule. Along with Lucerne, the three other forest cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden formed the "eternal" Swiss Confederacy, known as the Eidgenossenschaft, on November 7, 1332. Later the cities of Zürich, Zug and Bern joined the alliance. With the help of these additions, the rule of Austria over the area came to an end. The issue was settled by Lucerne’s victory over the Habsburgs in the Battle of Sempach in 1386. For Lucerne this victory ignited an era of expansion. The city shortly granted many rights to itself, rights which had been withheld by the Habsburgs until then. By this time the borders of Lucerne were approximately those of today.
By1415 Lucerne had become a strong member of the Swiss confederacy. The city developed its infrastructure, raised taxes, and appointed its own local officials. As the confederacy broke up during the Reformation after 1520, most cities became Protestant, but Lucerne remained Catholic. After the victory of the Catholics over the Protestants in the Battle at Kappel in 1531, the Catholic towns dominated the confederacy. The future, however, belonged to the Protestant cities like Zürich, Bern and Basel, which defeated the Catholics in the 1712 Toggenburg War. The former prominent position of Lucerne in the confederacy was lost forever.
In 1798, nine years after the beginning of the French Revolution, the French army marched into Switzerland. The old confederacy collapsed and the government became democratic. The industrial revolution hit Lucerne rather late, and by 1860 only 1.7% of the population worked in industry, which was about a quarter of the national average at that time. Agriculture, which employed about 40% of the workers, was the main form of economic output in the canton. Nevertheless, industry was attracted to the city from areas around Lucerne. From 1850 to 1913, the population quadrupled and the flow of settlers increased. In 1856 trains first linked the city to Olten and Basel, then Zug and Zürich in 1864 and finally to the south in 1897.
Our first stop was the Spreuerbrücke which is the oldest timber bridge in Switzerland. The bridge was completed in 1408 as part of the city fortifications. It features 67 paintings depicting a dance Macabre added between 1626 and 1635. This was the only place that chaff from cereals(Spreu) and foliage could be dumped into the river – hence the name.
Close by to the bridge was the Needle Dam which was installed in 1859/60. The water level of Lake Lucerne is still regulated manually by the removal or insertion of its timber ‘needles’.
From there we walked up to the Musegg Wall with its nine towers which formed part of Lucerne’s old fortifications. We were able to climb some of the towers. The best tower was the Zyt Tower which has a clock which dates from 1535 It has the privilege of chiming the hours one minute before all the other clocks in the town.
Our next stop was the Lion Monument or the ‘Dying Lion of Lucerne’. Carved out of rock, it commemorates the heroism in 1792 of Swiss soldiers who died attempting to protect the Tuileries Palace in Paris during the French Revolution.
From there we enjoyed a walk along the lake front before returning to the old town with its painted buildings and pretty squares.
Our final stop of our day was the famous Kapellbrücke or Chapel Bridge. This bridge was built in the first half of the 14th century as part of the city fortifications. The painted panels added in the 17th century portray scenes of Swiss and local history. Of course this bridge was full of tourists!