The Lion of Belfort is a monumental statue by Auguste Bartholdi situated against the cliff underneath the castle of Belfort. It symbolises the heroic resistance of the French army besieged in Belfort during the French-Prussian War (1870-71).
The heroic siege of Belfort was personified and symbolised by the monumental statue of a Lion erected in 1880 by Auguste Bartholdi. The sculptor was a local man from Colmar, and is renowned for having designed the Statue of Liberty in New York. Bartholdi described his monument as “a colossal lion, harried, driven back and still terrible in his fury”.
The statue is entirely made of red sandstone from the Vosges and evokes the sphinxes from Ancient Egypt. The lion is 21.50 metres long and 10.70 metres high and watches over the old town with a pugnacious look on its face. It was initially planned to face towards Germany until the sculpture was finally set towards the West after German protests in the 1870s.
Today, the statue is at its best when illuminated at night.
Many legends regarding the statue were handed down through the generations. One of them said that the animal did not have a tongue, and led its sculptor to kill himself when he found out about his omission. This was groundless as Bartholdi died a natural death. Moreover, the presence of a tongue inside the mouth of the lion was confirmed during the recent restoration works, putting a definite end to the persistent rumour.
A smaller copy in bronze stands in the centre of Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris and in Dorchester Square, Montreal, Quebec.