Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) is a covered wooden footbridge spanning the River Reuss diagonally in the city of Lucerne. Named after the nearby St. Peter's Chapel, the bridge is unique in containing a number of interior paintings dating back to the 17th century, although many of them were destroyed along with a larger part of the centuries-old bridge in a 1993 fire. Subsequently restored, the Kapellbrücke is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, as well as the world's oldest surviving truss bridge. It serves as the city's symbol and as one of Switzerland's main tourist attractions.

Part of the bridge complex is the octagonal Wasserturm. The tower pre-dated the bridge by about 30 years. Over the centuries, the tower has been used as a prison, torture chamber, and later a municipal archive as well as a local treasury. Today, the tower is closed to the public, although it houses a local artillery association and a tourist gift shop.

The bridge itself was originally built c.1365 as part of Lucerne's fortifications. It linked the old town on the right bank of the Reuss to the new town on the left bank, securing the town from attack from the south (i.e. from the lake). The bridge was initially over 270 metres long, although numerous shortenings over the years and river bank replenishments mean the bridge now totals only 204.7 metres long. It is the oldest surviving truss bridge in the world, consisting of strutted and triangulated trusses of moderate span, supported on piled trestles; as such, it is probably an evolution of the strutted bridge.

The Kapellbrücke almost burned down on 18 August 1993, destroying two thirds of its interior paintings. Shortly thereafter, the Kapellbrücke was reconstructed and again opened to the public in 1994.

Paintings

Lucerne is unique in that its three wooden pedestrian bridges, the 14th-century Hofbrücke (now destroyed) and Kapellbrücke and the 16th-century Spreuerbrücke, all featured painted interior triangular frames. None of Europe's other wooden footbridges have this feature. The paintings, dating back to the 17th century and executed by local Catholic painter Hans Heinrich Wägmann, depict events from Lucerne's history. Of the original 158 paintings, 147 existed before the 1993 fire. After the fire, the remains of 47 paintings were collected, but ultimately only 30 were fully restored.

Most of the panels were made from spruce wood boards, and only a few were made from linden wood and maple. The paintings were created during the Counter-Reformation, featuring scenes promoting the Catholic Church. The paintings were sponsored by the city's council members, who, upon sponsoring a panel, were allowed to attribute their personal coat of arms on it. An explanation of each painting was printed below each scene. The paintings ran all along the bridge, dating from the life and death of Lucerne's patron saint St.Leger to the legends of the city's other patron saint St. Maurice.

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    Founded: c. 1365
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    User Reviews

    Abhishek Singh (17 months ago)
    A nice walk around the lake with beautiful building with medical architecture all around. It is dotted with many restaurants on its side where you can enjoy the view of the lake and the chapel bridge. It is just next to the main station.
    Joseph Honour (17 months ago)
    This is a magnificent piece of architecture which cannot fail to raise gasps of amazement. The building dates back to the early 1500s which demonstrates the skills of the craftsmen and has withstood the rigours of climate and man. Irrespective of religious beliefs this building should not be missed.
    Ella Wilcox (17 months ago)
    Spectacular scenery! I loved it. Chapel Bridge gave a great view of the surroundings. It was also wheelchair accessible which is a very nice touch! A must see for sure!
    Manjunath Madakasira (17 months ago)
    It looked iconic with the water flowing under it. There are a lot of pictures grazing the insides of the bridge. A very pleasant place to take a walk.
    Philip Reynolds (17 months ago)
    Very much does what it says on the tin: it gets you from one side of the water to the other without getting your feet wet. Quite decorative if rather indirect. I prefer the Spreuerbrücke - purely on personal taste, of course.
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