The Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, Switzerland

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Lucerne’s Chapel Bridge, or Kapellbrücke in German, is a covered wooden pedestrian bridge that spans diagonally across the Reuss River. It derives its name from nearby St. Peter’s Chapel, which dates back to 1333.

Saint Peter’s Chapel is a chapel that dates from the 18th century, built over its predecessor in the 12th century. Its predecessor gave its name to the charming, wooden bridge close to it, the Chapel Bridge.

This pedestrian bridge connects the old town to the new town of Lucerne. The Chapel Bridge in Lucerne is one of the most famous bridges in Switzerland. It can be seen in a lot of guide books, social media images, and memorabilia. 

Origins: Chapel Bridge in Lucerne

In the 14th century, the chapel bridge and water tower were built. Originally 285 meters long, the Chapel Bridge was shortened several times during the 19th century. As part of the town’s defense, the bridge was used as a rampart. 

It is interesting to note that the water tower in the middle is actually older than the bridge itself. The 34.5-meter high octagonal water tower has served as a prison, a vault, and an archive.

The Chapel Bridge was adorned with paintings in the 17th century. Renward Cysat, the town secretary and a university scholar, designed these triangular panels. Hans Heinrich Wägmann painted them in Renaissance style.

Fire in August 1993

Sadly, this wooden pedestrian bridge caught fire on the night of August 17, 1993. Of the 111 paintings, 81 were destroyed. As a result of the fire, there is a gap in the middle of the bridge. The originals can still be seen on the bridgeheads.

Although the chapel bridge was heavily damaged by fire, it was extensively restored. By April 1994, the bridge had been completely rebuilt using as much original material as possible. It looks like the original, though the fire-damaged wooden piers between the towers were replaced with concrete ones.

Before you cross the Chapel bridge, an information board explains its history in German, French, and English.

How to get to Chapel Bridge in Lucerne

Go to Lucerne by train or bus. From the train station, head out and walk in the direction of the lake. Turn left and you will see it immediately. It is only a 2 to 3-minute walk from the train station.

Final Thoughts: Chapel Bridge in Lucerne

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Even today, the Chapel Bridge is one of the most photographed places in Switzerland. Tourists in Lucerne usually include it on their bucket lists, along with the Lion Monument.

You can see another wooden bridge from Chapel Bridge – Spreuer Bridge (or Spreuerbrücke in German). Spreuer Bridge was used to connect the mill place on the right bank of the river with the mills in the middle. Later, it was the only bridge in Lucerne where you could throw leaves and chaff into the river. That’s how it got its name since Spreu means chaff. In this bridge, you can also see 45 of the original 67 painted wood panels.

There are few surviving wooden truss bridges in Europe older than the Chapel Bridge.  

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