Whenever I am visiting the beautiful city of Lucerne in Switzerland, I always must pay my respects to the Lion Monument, a sad sculpture designed by a famous Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. The sculpture shows a mortally wounded, weeping lion, impaled by a spear and resting on a shield. It commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in large numbers during the French Revolution.
Mark Twain, who travelled extensively in Switzerland, called the sculpture “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.” I have seen the sculpture in every season but I was particularly moved by it yesterday on a warm and sunny day. First the lion was in full sun but then the shade started approaching fast, engulfing his body mercilessly. The lion, identified with the Sun in myth, was being defeated and swallowed by the shadow. And yet he looked so noble and brave despite his weakness and misery. I thought of the Sun entering its nightly course through the night sea in the Egyptian mythology. The death of the Sun every night was symbolically compared by Jung to the death of the ego before it takes a plunge into the waters of the unconscious.
Here are more reflections of Mark Twain on this extraordinary sculpture:
The Lion lies in his lair in the perpendicular face of a low cliff — for he is carved from the living rock of the cliff. His size is colossal, his attitude is noble. His head is bowed, the broken spear is sticking in his shoulder, his protecting paw rests upon the lilies of France. Vines hang down the cliff and wave in the wind, and a clear stream trickles from above and empties into a pond at the base, and in the smooth surface of the pond the lion is mirrored, among the water-lilies.
Around about are green trees and grass. The place is a sheltered, reposeful woodland nook, remote from noise and stir and confusion — and all this is fitting, for lions do die in such places, and not on granite pedestals in public squares fenced with fancy iron railings. The Lion of Lucerne would be impressive anywhere, but nowhere so impressive as where he is.
Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad