Belfort's nickname, the "City of the Lion", is derived from this majestic sculpture at the foot of the Citadel. The strong, imposing beast watches over the city. The symbol of Belfort and the pride of its citizens, myriad legends shroud the lion in mystery...
Opening hours :
From 1st October to 31 March:
From 1st April to 31 May:
From 1st June to 31 August:
From 1st to 30 September:
Lion admission :
Rate : 1€ on tuesdays
From wednesday to Monday :5€ (pass Lion and Museum)
From 3 November 1870 to 13 February 1871, Belfort, an Alsatian sub-prefecture, was under siege by the Prussian Army. Because Napoleon III's generals were defeated during the first weeks of the war, it was Denfert-Rochereau, a mere colonel, who commanded the operation... successfully! Belfort did not capitulate and only surrendered the city by order of the French government. Thanks to its courageous resistance, Belfort remained French whereas parts of Alsace and Lorraine were annexed to Germany.
Beginning in December 1871, while enemy troops still occupied the city, Belfort's city council voted to set aside money to erect a monument to commemorate and recognise the victims of the memorable siege of 1870-71. The project was a modest one: a simple stele or column at the Les Mobiles cemetery. The allocated budget was 2,000 Francs.
Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi was consulted to work on the project. As a native of Colmar who was greatly affected by the annexation of his region, Bartholdi was thrilled to participate in the competition. He already had an idea that was far removed from a simple column: he envisioned a colossal lion carved into and under the limestone rock of the Citadel, a lion that would be "harassed, cornered and terrible still in its fury"!
His proposal, which was accepted in 1873, underwent many changes, essentially to alter the depiction of the lion, which should "glorify the energetic defense" rather than call to mind a victory or defeat.
However, the original estimated cost of 50,000 Francs was largely surpassed, so a national donation campaign was launched. It was triumphant and work finally began in 1876. Progress was slowed considerably by material difficulties (extraction, size and placement of the stone) and the harshness of the successive winters. The citizens of Belfort would have to wait until 1880 to admire the completed Lion.
Made entirely of pink sandstone from the Vosges mountains, it measures 22 metres long by 11 metres high. Though never inaugurated, it was designated a "Historic Monument" in 1931.
On the occasion of the giant's 130th birthday, the city decided to correct this oversight and inaugurate the lion with a year of festivities from September 2010 to September 2011.
Join us on Sunday, 18 September 2011, as the activities culminate with the long-awaited inauguration!