No visit to Switzerland is complete without a scenic tour around Lake Lucerne. Jared wanted to drive the circumference of the entire lake, and we also stopped for a nice walk through the city of Lucerene.
We were immediately drawn to the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), which is an eye-catching landmark that crosses diagonally over the Reuss River.
The bridge was originally built in the 14th century as part of the city’s fortifications. Chapel Bridge is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, and also the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge.
Of course we had to walk its length!
The bridge has some great character.
It also has some beautiful interior paintings that date back to the 17th century.
These beautiful Renaissance paintings towered above our heads in the trusses.
We turned around and looked at their backsides, however, and charred paintings made it evident that this bridge has seen a great deal of history. Placards on the bridge told us that the paintings and bridge were almost fully destroyed by a major fire in 1993 (cause unknown–although suspected to be a cigarette). The fire destroyed two thirds of the bridge’s interior paintings (81 of 111) and killed one person. Fortunately, the bridge had been shortened in the 19th century (originally 285 meters, now less than 200). During this process, many paintings were removed and put in storage.
The fire was mostly in the center of the bridge (near the water tower), so a small amount of paintings on the far ends were spared. Here’s a picture they posted of the fire:
Most of the paintings in good condition are likely the ones that were removed and stored in the 19th century when they shortened the length of the bridge. They are back on display now, after they reconstructed the burnt parts of the bridge and reopened it in 1994 at a cost of $2.1 million USD. Ouch!
In the bridge’s center is an octagonal water tower (Wasserturm) that is 140 feet tall. The tower was built 30 years before the bridge, and doesn’t hold any water—it simply gets its name from the fact that it stands in the water. Over the centuries it has served as a dungeon, archive and treasury vault.
It’s clearly a Switzerland landmark for a good reason!
Don’t miss it!