The town of Lucerne itself is a must see on anyone’s Swiss bucket list! With a sprawling glassy lake and overhead mountains that rise up 10,000 feet into the sky, Lucerne is a true fairytale destination. And the main attraction of this fairytale town? The Chapel bridge and water tower in Lucerne!
Whether you’re interested in architecture or not, there’s no denying that the chapel bridge and water tower are impressive, to say the least. In fact, as soon as I told my parents I would be visiting Lucerne, their first question was “So, are you going to visit the Chapel Bridge?” That’s just how famous it is!
So why are the Chapel Bridge and water tower in Lucerne so famous?
Well, for starters, the Chapel Bridge and Water tower are quite probably the oldest surviving wooden bridge in Switzerland! This stunning feat of architecture may well also be the most beautiful bridge in Switzerland; a difficult task in one of the most beautiful countries in the World!
In German, the bridge is referred to as Kapellbrücke (literally Chapel bridge). Spanning over 170 metres, the covered walkway is particularly famous due to its abundance of 17th Century paintings and the fact that a bridge has stood in that very location since the 14th century!
In the very centre of the bridge stands the 43 metre tall Wasserturm (literally, water tower). Surprisingly it isn’t a ‘water tower’ in the traditional sense because it doesn’t actually hold any water! Instead, it gets its name from the tower’s location in the centre of the lake!
Burning down & Reconstruction
Tragically, the Chapel Bridge and its paintings aren’t really the originals. In fact, on a particularly dismal August night in 1993. the majority of the wooden parts of the bridge burnt down. All the more surprising since the bridge sits above water! The only piece of the bridge that survived largely unscathed was the stone water tower.
Although the exact cause of the fire remains undetermined, it’s likely that the spark came from a small rowboat moored to the bridge. Other theories suggest that the fire may well have started as a result of a dropped cigarette! It took 11 hours to get the fire under control, the results of which two-thirds of the 17th Century paintings were destroyed in the process.
Within a year, the bridge had been restored to its former glory and was reopened to the public at a cost of over two million dollars. The majority of the paintings that you see today are actually facsimiles, recreated from photos and sketches of the originals.