The Chapel Bridge

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Lucerne is a cen­ter of Swiss his­tory and leg­end.

Lucerne is a lovely small city with a thriv­ing tourism in­dus­try, ow­ing mainly to its sta­tus as a gate­way to Cen­tral Switzer­land.

The Swiss are renowned for their cau­tion and re­serve, but as you emerge from the train sta­tion in Lucerne the ex­u­ber­ance of the city strikes you with breath­tak­ing force: Here, be­fore you, is the cel­e­brated lake, with its glit­ter­ing sur­face and un­du­lat­ing shore­line. There, flanked by an an­cient oc­tag­o­nal stone tower, is the cov­ered me­dieval Chapel Bridge leading across the Reuss River, where an ar­ray of stately ho­tels evokes the gilded age of the Grand Tour.

The unique land­mark in Lucerne is the Chapel Bridge, or the Kapell­brücke, as they call it in Ger­man, that spans the Reuss River. It was named af­ter St. Peter’s Chapel, which is lo­cated nearby. The bridge is unique since it con­tains tri­an­gu­lar trusses, dec­o­rated with paint­ings dat­ing back to the 17th century, which span the up­per in­te­rior of the bridge. There was also an ex­pla­na­tion printed be­low each paint­ing to help nar­rate the scene. Un­for­tu­nately, two-thirds of these paint­ings were de­stroyed by fire in 1993. The scenes on the trusses, which date back to the Coun­ter­Refor­ma­tion, por­tray pro­mo­tions of the Catholic Church and scenes of the his­tory of Lucerne.

The Chapel Bridge is the old­est wooden cov­ered bridge in Europe. It was orig­i­nally built in 1333, as part of the bridge in­cludes the oc­tag­o­nal tower. The tower pre­dated the bridge by about 30 years. Through­out the cen­turies, the tower was vari­ably used as a prison, tor­ture cham­ber, and later a mu­nic­i­pal ar­chive.

The bridge was built to span the 660 feet of river be­tween the banks, and it was con­structed as part of the town’s for­ti­fi­ca­tions to link the old town to the new and help se­cure the city from at­tack.

Photo Cour­tesy of Lucerne Tourism

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