The historic city of Lucerne has several attractions that confirm its development during the medieval period. One of them is the presence of community gathering places and trading spots. In Lucerne, many squares are named after their fame. Good examples are, if you needed to buy grain, you had to go to the Kornmarkt (Corn Market), and, to find a butcher, go to Metgerrainte.
In addition, these meeting places are, for many, embellished by one or more architectural and symbolic elements over the years. Among those features we can find fountains, frescoes or a monument.
The fountains dispersed in the city played a crucial role by bringing water to the citizens thus reducing the time to travel to get fresh and drinkable water. Women came daily to the square for refills of water and to meet their neighbors.
The frescoes that you will find during your visit are intended to be a message, an advertisement, a divertissement, a historical reminder or simply decorative. It’s up to you to deduce the meaning if you can.
Before 1555, a narrower section of this square was the pig market. But the space unexpectedly opened up following the destruction by fire of a few side-by-side buildings. It was decided to not rebuild and this place changed forever thereafter.
One of the damaged buildings was the Gasthaus Hirschen (Deer Inn). Already in operation in 1472, its loss was painful for the community, and the square became the Hirschenplaz (Deer Square) as a memorial.
In this square, you will be amazed by the facades of the buildings for three main reasons: the paintings, the turrets and the different construction styles that coexist pleasantly together.
Indeed, there are many things to see at the architectural level. The frescoes are omnipresent and add deepness and a unique cachet like a tattoo to buildings that already have personality. Note the relief created by the turrets attached to the upper floors, some of which are suspended while others rest on a pillar. Not only do they stand out, but they also have a distinct shape and roof styling.
The Neptune Fountain was there before it was moved to Muhleplatz. Today, in this huge square, there is a modest fountain. It shows a man with geese under his arms, the “gänsemännchenbrunnen”. This sculpture is not unique. In fact, it is a copy bought by Carl Bossard-Brunner of a 1530’s artwork from Nuremberg.
While in the square, search for the Golden Cherub in a place where rich details are all around.
Grains and cereals are staple foods needed by all families. It was here, very close to the Reuss River and close to the current Rathaussteg Bridge that the villagers gathered and bought their wheat, grains and cereals.
It is estimated that there were merchants who settled here back in 1356. Few clues apart from the name of the square confirm that everything took place here. However, the move of the Town Hall to this square from 1438 and the tower which is adjacent had a participative role with the market by offering a place for storing grains and a place for merchandising.
Here is another place full of history and unique artistic beauty in Lucerne. This square is surrounded by merchants and has always been a place of commercial transactions. Although its name refers to wine, originally it was a fish market and with the river nearby, this is not surprising. The square already existed at the turn of the 14th century.
A fountain was installed in 1481, and is ranked among the most beautiful in the region. It represents the patron saint of infantry, Saint Maurice, at the top of a column. He is surrounded by figures of fighters. Saint Maurice, also known as St.Morris or St.Mauritius, is one of the patrons of the French, American and Swiss infantry in addition to the alpine hunters. The original version of Konrad Lux’s work is protected in a museum. The one present in the public square has been adjusted a few times and has lost a little color over the years. It is believed that the Weinmarkt fountain is not the first water source in this place.
It was only around the middle of the 16th century that this meeting place was converted into a wine market. One of the frescoes in the square shows a religious scene of the first miracle attributed to Jesus, the one where he transformed water into wine. This is an interpretation of the Feast at Cana.
Other colorful facades surround the square, including the Pfyffe-Cloos house (at 5) may still contain historical interior features. The buildings also have oriel windows that give other dimensions to the neighborhood. At 4 Weinmarkt was the Müllersche Apotheke pharmacy which dates back to 1530. The frescoes are linked to medicine. Weber’s World (at 20) is in this square and is associated with Lucerne’s first and oldest knife shops.
Hotel des Balances is considered part of this square. This building has been there since the beginning of the 12th century. In its early days, it was a town hall before being moved to other locations and before be transferred at the Kornmarket in the early 17th century. The building remained a gathering place, and, in 1807, was transformed into an inn.
It is interesting to know that the town hall also served as a place of justice. Pubic sentences were announced from a balcony which has since been dismantled.
Butchers’ Arch (Metzgerbogli) (in Weinmarkt)
Don’t miss this little hidden treasure that takes us back in time. In 1458, several cooperatives built their buildings around popular markets. On the Weinmarkt a passage via a tunnel allows direct access to the river. The fire of 1833 destroyed a good part of the buildings but the walls of the tunnel were preserved. You can see these ruins in the arch opening at 6 Weinmarkt or the Zunfthaus zur Metzgern.
Hotel des Balances (in Weinmarkt)
The Hotel des Balances attracts attention with its façade which shows superb frescoes in this square surrounded by historic buildings dating from the 12th century. Without realizing it, the Inn, as well as the restaurant terrace, also run along the river. On the other side of the Weinmarkt is a breathtaking view of the Chapel Bridge, the Jesuit Church and the Mount Pilatus.
The town hall and courthouse have been converted into a hotel since 1836. Its original designation, Hotel Waage, still appears on the facade of the building.
The 56 room hotel provides comfortable, peaceful, restful and modern accommodations in a place where very strong emotions, feelings and judicial activities of medieval times would probably frighten many of us. In the square in front of the hotel, Weinmarkt, is the Linden Tree, associated with justice and the bench named The Bench of Penalties lets us believe in many public sanctions.
Balances is French for scales. Scales are often associated with justice thus referencing the origin of the construction of this building, the courthouse.
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