Ask anyone who has seen Lucerne's Dying Lion Monument and you'll come away with a multiplicity of wrong explanations for its existence. It was not built to commemorate soldiers who died in a war with France. It was built to honor over 700 Swiss Guards who lost their lives protecting Louis XVI as he was trying to escape imprisonment by revolutionary forces. The 1821 monument to these fallen soldiers of a large male lion dying of his wounds sculpted by Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen is set in a huge wall of sandstone that was part of a city quarry. The beauty of the sculpture, which often moves visitors to tears, is not so much dependent on the centuries' old reason for its existence. The regal feline's pose, curled into his stone den and his reflection in the pond below make the sculpture what Mark Twain called, "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world." "The Lion of Lucerne would be impressive anywhere," he wrote in A Tramp Abroad in 1880, "but nowhere so impressive as where he is."
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