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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). Let’s have a closer look!

[lwptoc]

The Lion of Belfort: a patriotic monument

The heroic siege of Belfort was personified and symbolised by the monumental statue of a Lion erected in 1880 by Auguste Bartholdi.

Auguste Bartholdi
Auguste Bartholdi

The sculptor was a local man from Colmar, and is renowned for having designed the Statue of Liberty in New York City.

Bartholdi described his monument as “a colossal lion, harried, driven back and still terrible in his fury”.

Lion of Belfort 02 © French Moments
Lion of Belfort © French Moments

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.

Lion de Belfort © Thomas Bresson - licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
The statue under the castle © Thomas Bresson – licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

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.

The citadel of Belfort © French Moments
The Lion under the citadel © French Moments

Urban legends about the Lion of Belfort

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.

Lion de Belfort © Thesupermat - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Does the Lion have a tongue? © Thesupermat – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

This was groundless as Bartholdi died a natural death much later in Paris, in 1904.

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.


The Lion of Belfort in Paris and Montréal, Canada

A smaller 1/3 copy in bronze stands in the centre of Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris.

Lion of Belfort in Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris 03 © French Moments
Lion of Belfort in Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris © French Moments

There’s also a 1/10 replica in Dorchester Square, Montreal, Canada.

The Lion of Belfort in Dorchester Square, Montreal © Emdx - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
The Lion of Belfort in Dorchester Square, Montreal © Emdx – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

More info about Belfort


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Lion of Belfort © French Moments


Discover Belfort

Never been to Belfort? There’s quite a lot to discover in the surroundings. Check it out!

Belfort © French Moments
The Lion and the castle © French Moments
Fortifications of Belfort © French Moments
The fortifications of Belfort © French Moments
The fortifications of Vauban in Belfort © French Moments
The fortifications of Vauban in Belfort © French Moments
The view from the Belfort Citadel © French Moments
The view from the Citadel © French Moments
The Savoureuse river © French Moments
The Savoureuse river © French Moments

Montbéliard

South of Belfort lies Montbéliard. The historic and industrial town is the birthplace of the Peugeot carmaker.

The castle of Montbéliard © French Moments
The castle of Montbéliard © French Moments
The castle of Montbéliard © French Moments
The castle of Montbéliard © French Moments

Haute-Alsace

The Sundgau, a rural land east of Belfort. A beautiful area with rolling hills, fields, meadows and forests:

Sundgau near Dannemarie © French Moments
The landscape of the Sundgau in the vicinity of Dannemarie © French Moments

Check out the historic little town of Ferrette:

Ferrette in the Sundgau, Alsace © French Moments
Ferrette in the Sundgau, Alsace © French Moments

A view of the village of Hirtzbach in the Sundgau:

Hirtzbach Spring © French Moments
Spring in the Sundgau © French Moments

The historic square of Place de la Réunion in Mulhouse, Alsace:

Mulhouse © French Moments
Place de la Réunion, Mulhouse © French Moments

Mulhouse is worth visiting for its amazing technical museums. A few examples: Cité de l’Automobile, Cité du Train, Electropolis, and more!

The Vosges

The Ballon d’Alsace (1247 m), one of the most famous summits of the Vosges mountains.

The view from the Ballon d'Alsace © French Moments
The view from the Ballon d’Alsace © French Moments
The Ballon d'Alsace © French Moments
The Ballon d’Alsace © French Moments

 

About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".

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  1. That’s so interesting, Pierre. I lived just 100 km from Belfort and have never even heard of the Lion! Thank you for bringing this information to our attention.

  2. Going back to last week’s commentary on rural French countryside. Having spent the past 3 weeks watching the Tour de France going through some rugged country, what great scenery and reinforcement for your beautiful photos and thoughts of future trips to previously unknown areas. Keep up the great work.

    1. So true! Following the Tour de France is one of the best ways to discover the many regions of France… particularly in these times when travelling is not an option!

  3. interesting information a lot of effort done essentially for these videos your passion to introduce France to the world is commendable keep up the spirit ! manju Hnew delhi india

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