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The Kapellbrücke, or Chapel Bridge in English, is a famous covered wooden footbridge in the city of Lucerne, central Switzerland. It spans diagonally across the Reuss River and is probably the oldest wooden bridge in Switzerland, the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe and the oldest surviving truss bridge in the world, dating back to the middle of the 14th century. The first written record of it dates back to 1367.

The bridge is considered special as only a very few covered wooden bridges have old paintings under their roofs. The paintings dated back to the 17th century, although two thirds of them were destroyed along with most of the old bridge in a fire on 18th August, 1993. The bridge was fully reconstructed and restored after the fire, opening once again to the public on 14th April, 1994 at a cost of 2.1 million USD. It continues to serve, as it has done in the past, not only as the city’s symbol but also one of the most popular non-natural tourist attractions in Switzerland. The photographs on this webpage were taken the year before the fire.

The Kapellbrücke was named after the nearby St. Peter's Chapel and was originally built in 1333 as part of the oldest medieval city ramparts. It connected the new town on the left bank of the Reuss to the old town on the right bank and acted as a medieval defence from any possible attacks from the south, where the waters of Lake Lucerne flow into River. The bridge consists of strutted and triangulated trusses supported on piled trestles. It was over 200m in length, when built, although due to alterations in the riverbank throughout the years, it is now just 170m long; Originally, there was an extension leading from its northern bridgehead to Hofkirche, the oldest church of the city (associated to a Benedictine monastery), although in 1834, this was replaced by a lakeside avenue and promenade.

The Kapellbrücke includes the octagonal 43m tall Wasserturm (Water Tower). The Wasserturm was built around 30 years before the bridge and was named so as it stands in the water and it is not actually a water tower per se. It's roles have included as a dungeon, an archive and a treasury vault, until the 19th century. Today, a local artillery association uses it as a club room. It is not possible to see inside the tower, although at the bridge level, the nearest the public can get is inside a souvenir shop which is located here.

As well as the Kapellbrücke, Lucerne has another wooden pedestrian bridge, the 16th century Spreuerbrücke. A third wooden bridge, the 14th century Hofbrücke once stood in the city as well, but has long since gone. All three feature (or featured) pictures painted on interior triangular frames under the roof, something not seen elsewhere in other wooden footbridges across Europe. The paintings depict(ed) events from Lucerne's history, with scenes promoting the Catholic Church. On Kapellbrücke, some 85 of the 110 pictures, which date(ed) back to 1611, were destroyed by the fire. Only 25 of them were saved or fully restored. Replacements for the other frames came in the form of pictures from the former extension (mentioned above) - these had been in storage since 1834. Some burnt panels remain, as a reminder of the fire. During carnival season, as a precaution, the panels are temporarily replaced by modern pictures depicting carnival scenes.


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