Aerial view of Chapel Bridge over the River Reuss in Lucerne, Switzerland
© Neleman Initiative/Gallery Stoc
A city of bridges
We're in the heart of Switzerland looking down on the compact city of Lucerne, in a charming waterfront setting along the shores of its namesake lake and the River Reuss. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains just out of frame, Lucerne lies in the German-speaking part of central Switzerland and is divided into two parts linked by a series of bridges. The most famous of these bridges—the centerpiece and symbol of Lucerne—is the Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), a covered wooden footbridge that you can see spanning diagonally across the Reuss in our photo. The building rising from the river alongside the footbridge is a medieval water tower, which has been used as a prison, torture chamber, local archive, and treasury.
Originally built in the 1300s as part of Lucerne's fortifications, Chapel Bridge connected the old town on the right bank of the Reuss to the new town on the left, securing the city from attack via Lake Lucerne to the south. It is believed to be the oldest covered wooden bridge in Europe, as well as the world's oldest surviving truss bridge, although much of it had to be replaced after a devastating fire in 1993. Named for the nearby St. Peter's Chapel—the oldest original church structure in Lucerne—Chapel Bridge is picturesque in more ways than one: People crossing the river can view paintings on triangular panels under the bridge's roof that date back to the 17th century. Painted by local artist Hans Heinrich Wägmann, they depict Lucerne's patron saints, and events in Swiss national history. Of the original set of 158, 62 paintings survived the fire.