Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Random Wiki Today: The Lion of Belfort

Every once in a while, I get an offer from someone I don’t like very much that I find very hard to refuse. So I don’t. Every time, this has turned out to be the right decision. That being said, if someone would offer to take me on a tour of really really big things in the world, it wouldn’t matter what they looked like, or talked about. I would even excuse the inevitable double entendre. I like to think that if I keep my standards low enough, some day this will happen. You’re thinking “but Bridget, what about all the really hot 20 yr olds out there with even lower standards?” I like to think that I would be less intimidating, with more lasting entertainment value. Sarcasm never gets old, right?

The Lion of Belfort is one of those amazing things that you have no idea exists unless you live in Eastern France, or you happened to major in something weird in college, like Historical Architectural Design. It’s iffy even then. If I were randomly in Belfort one day, and I saw this by accident, I would seriously then consider moving there so I could stand under its shadow every day.

I feel this way about a surprisingly large number of monuments.

The Lion of Belfort was designed by the same guy who did the Statue of Liberty, Frederic Bartholdi. Did you know the actual name of the statue is “Liberty Enlightening the World”? Also that Bartholdi was originally going to do a statue for the Suez canal called “Egypt Bringing Light to Asia”, which was a woman holding a torch, modeled after the goddess Libertas? Yeah. I get it. He was an artist, and he needed an excuse to get some government to fund his giant bronze woman. I don’t fault him for repackaging the concept.

The Lion was probably a little nearer to his heart though. Bartholdi was an officer during the Franco-Prussian war, and this cat is dedicated to the siege of Belfort during the last gasping heaving campaigns against the Prussians. Bartholdi was an officer under Garibaldi, an Italian who originally fought with the Prussians, then switched his support to the French. Now there’s an interesting guy, Garibaldi. Anyway, so Bartholdi originally is fighting for the Prussians, then the French. He makes this giant lion as a testament to the small contingent of brave French who hold off the Prussians at Belfort for 103 days, only to have to surrender in the end because the Armistice is signed. Can you imagine having to surrender because your government tells you to, after 103 nightmarish days of beating unbelieveable odds? It's unthinkable, walking out to lay down your arms to the enemy after something like that. He then faces the lion east, as a warning to any stray Prussians who might be thinking conquistador thoughts. Only at some point, there were enough German protests about it, they MOVED it to face the east.

This thing is big. 22 meters long and 11 meters tall. That’s 72 feet long, 36 feet tall. I remember reading a ZooBook when I was a little girl, and it said that Bengal tigers were 8-9ft long. And someone told me that was roughly the same size as our couch. Since then, whenever I’m trying to imagine a tiger, I think of a couch. I googled “72ft” to see what I could compare this to, and what I came up with was some giant inflatable billboard at the 08 PGA Open, that beat all previous giant inflatable billboard records. Maddeningly, I can’t find a picture of it.

Don’t you wish you were the kind of person who saw giant lions on the side of mountains, and colossal women standing in the water at the edge of ports? And then convinced international governments to give you money to build them, with hundreds, thousands of workers and years of time, all so that this huge lion can guard this town for the rest of known time? That's immortality.


  1. That giant lion is about an hour's drive from me. It is in the town where the Android and Lisa and Adam came to play a festival. I hate to say it, isn't so impressive in person. Well, kinda.


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