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A little history of Belfort lion

The lion | Loki90 / CC-BY-SA
Statue Auguste Bartholdi Belfort lion

Paris has got a Belfort Lion on Denfert-Rochereau square, the same as Belfort, but smaller! It's the same sculptor who completed the two sculptures, Bartholdi.

France went to war against Prussia in July 1870: French defeats multiplied all over the country, except in Belfort! The city was bravely defended by colonel Aristide Denfert-Rochereau.

When Belfort city surrendered, the town council decided to raise a monument dedicated to war's victims. The mayor put directly Alsatian sculptor Bartholdi in charge of the task.

Bartholdi was OK: he immediately thought of a lion. What's better than a lion to symbolize strength and bravery? He decided to raise it below the Belfort's citadel, on the rock. The statue' size? 4 metres high and 5 metres long.

Bartholdi asked for it 20 000 francs. A large sum of money! But the city didn't have that sum... They started a national subscription, which made lot of money (55 000 francs). In June 1875, excavation works began. The last stone was laid down in September 1880. Hurray!

But the inauguration was a long time coming... Displeased, Bartholdi financed himself a little party on August 29th 1880, at night: he floodlighted his statue with Bengal lights. Finally, the huge lion, cut in red sandstone, measures 22 metres long and 11 metres high.

Do you know the funniest part in this story? At the end of the 19th century, our lion became a star: lots of by-products were sold, like plates, watches, engravings... often bad taste products! Even washing powder and groceries were called lion de Belfort! Of course, Bartholdi objected to this commercial seizure and instituted lots of proceedings against them...

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!