Overview

So much more than just crossing over the Reuss

It is hard to imagine Lucerne without the world-famous Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) with the Water Tower (Wasserturm) and the Chaff Bridge (Spreuerbrücke). The third in the trio – the Court Bridge (Hofbrücke) – no longer exists.
In bygone days, the bridges formed part of the city's fortifications. Today, tourists love taking photos of them.

Where once there were three, now there are two

The Chapel Bridge and Water Tower ensemble is Lucerne’s most prominent landmark. Along with the Chaff Bridge further downriver, they are testament to the medieval history of the city. Even the locals only know about Lucerne’s third wooden bridge – the Court Bridge – from history books. It was dismantled in several stages back in the 19th century. Its cycle of paintings, however, remains preserved. Each of the three covered wooden bridges has its own series of paintings. In their entirety, the triangular paintings in Lucerne are unique in the world.

1
The Chapel Bridge
Lucerne’s world-famous landmark, which almost completely burned down in 1993.

Year of construction:
Around 1360

Length:
205 meters (originally 279 meters)

Number of paintings:
62 on the bridge, some of which are partially burned (originally 158)

Number of visitors per day:
13,800 (in 2017)

Origin of name:
The Chapel Bridge takes its name from St Peter’s Chapel on the right bank of the Reuss

General information

The bridge can be visited free of charge

Public access 24 hours a day

The bridge is wheelchair-accessible

Free WiFi throughout the bridge

An eventful history

Since the fire, the Chapel Bridge has become one of the most famous bridges in the world.

The Chapel Bridge was probably constructed around 1360 and hence later than the water tower. The first mention of it dates back to 1367. The cycle of paintings was created in the 17th century and depicts the history of the Swiss Confederation as well as the patron saints of Lucerne, St Leger and St Maurice. Following the construction of the embankment, the bridge was shortened several times during the 19th century. Large parts of the Chapel Bridge succumbed to a fire in 1993. Many of the triangular paintings in the gables were destroyed in the flames. Lucerne’s most prominent landmark was quickly rebuilt.

  • The oldest extant wooden bridge in Europe
  • It originally led to what is now the Theaterplatz (Theater Square)
  • A total of 86 paintings were partially or completely destroyed by the fire in 1993
Around 1360
Construction of the Chapel Bridge
Around 1614 to 1624
Creation of the cycle of paintings
19th century
Shortened by 74 meters
1993
A large part of the bridge is destroyed by fire
1993/94
The bridge is quickly rebuilt
Background
The wooden bridges’ cycles of paintings
Their creation, motifs and form – what makes the triangular paintings so unique.
Hover over the Reuss
360° panorama of the Chapel Bridge
Step inside – here it is possible
360° panorama of the Water Tower
205 meters...
... is the length of the Chapel Bridge, making it the second-longest covered wooden bridge in Europe after the wooden bridge at Bad Säckingen in Germany.
#chapelbridge
2
The Chaff Bridge
The younger and smaller sibling of the Chapel Bridge attracts visitors with paintings of the Dance of Death (Totentanz) and a chapel.

Year of construction:
Around 1408

Length:
81 meters

Number of paintings:
45 on the bridge (originally 71)

Number of visitors per day:
8400 (in 2017)

Origin of name:
The bridge takes its name from “chaff”, which the mills dumped from the bridge into the Reuss

General information

The bridge can be visited free of charge

Public access 24 hours a day

Free WiFi throughout the bridge

The bridge is wheelchair-accessible

Another gem

The dead, Mary and the bakers.

The first part of the Chaff Bridge was built in the 13th century. Mühlenplatz (Mill Square) on the right bank of the Reuss was connected to the city mills in the middle of the river. It was first mentioned as a complete bridge over the Reuss in 1408, when it was extended to the left bank and into the baker’s quarter in the Pfistergasse. The Chaff Bridge also formed part of the town’s fortifications and sealed the city off to the north-west. Its cycle of paintings was created between around 1616 and 1637 and is the most extensive series of all known Dance of Death paintings. Similarly impressive is the small Chapel of Maria auf der Reuss (Mary on the Reuss), which is located in the middle of the bridge.

  • The paintings symbolize the omnipresence of Death
  • Immediately upstream from the bridge, the Reusswehr (Reuss Weir) regulates the level of the Reuss and Lake Lucerne
  • The bridge leads to the History Museum and the Natural History Museum
Around 1408
Completion of the Chaff Bridge
1566
Suffers serious storm damage
Around 1616 to 1637
Creation of the cycle of paintings
1871/1875
The mills burn down
1887
Construction of the first power plant immediately upstream from the bridge
Audio guide about the Dance of Death
Listen to the narration as you cross the Chaff Bridge.
Experience the Dance of Death

The audio guide about the Dance of Death takes you over the Chaff Bridge, giving you background information on selected paintings from the cycle. Listen to the 20-minute audio guide, which was created by the History Museum of Lucerne. It takes you from there over the bridge to Mühlenplatz and back again.

#chaffbridge
3
The Court Bridge
Lucerne’s forgotten wooden bridge which had to make way for the embankment.

Year of construction:
Around 1265 (based on circumstantial evidence)

Length:
385 meters

Number of paintings:
226 are stored in the City Archives (originally 239)

Number of visitors per day:
Demolished in the 19th century

Origin of name:
The Court Bridge led from the city into the Hofbezirk (Court District)

It can no longer be seen. In its place is Schweizerhofquai with all its attractions.

The way to the church

The bridge of which little trace remains today.

The Court Bridge was the most impressive wooden bridge of them all: the oldest, the longest and adorned with the most triangular paintings. Probably built in the 13th century, it served as a walkway between the city and the Court Church (Hofkirche). It led not over the Reuss, but over the bay of Lucerne. Its cycle of paintings dates from the 16th century and depicts scenes from the Old and New Testament. The embankment along with what is now the Schweizerhofquai rendered the bridge redundant. It was dismantled in stages between 1835 and 1852.

  • The first of Lucerne’s wooden bridges to be built
  • The bridge led from today’s Kapellplatz (Chapel Square) to the Court Church
  • Its cycle of paintings is well preserved
Around 1265
Construction of the Court Bridge
Around 1552 to 1580
Creation of the cycle of paintings
1835
First part of the bridge is demolished
1852
Last part of the bridge is demolished
Today
The gable paintings are stored in the City Archives
Have we whetted your appetite for more?