In 1821, the monument to the Lion of Luzern (Lšwendenkmal) was carved out of natural rock after a design by the Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen. It commemorates the more than 700 officers and soldiers of the Swiss Guard who heroically lost their lives defending the king during the Storming of the Tuileries in the French Revolution. The Kings of France had hired the Swiss Guard since 1516 for protection. On August 10, 1792, the 900 members of the Swiss Guard defended the Tuileries Palace in Paris against a mob of about 30,000 Parisians intent on capturing King Louis XVI. No one told the Swiss Guard that the king and his family had already fled from the palace. They held their ground and were massacred by the mob. King Louis XVI would die under the guillotine the following year. A fire destroyed the Tuileries Palace (which was near the Louvre Museum) in 1871, however its gardens remain. In 1874, the Swiss were forbade to serve in any foreign army. The only exception is the Swiss Guard of the Vatican, which protects the Pope. Today the statue is a major attraction in Luzern. The sad eyes and poignant expression on the dying lion's face is almost hypnotizing. During a visit to Luzern, American writer Mark Twain described the Lion of Luzern as "the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world." The inscription reads "HELVETIORUM FIDEI AC VIRTUTI" - Latin translation "To the Loyalty and Courage of the Swiss"
Bio by: Frank McGady