The Chapel Bridge is a bridge crossing the Reuss River in the city of Lucerne in Switzerland.
It is a wooden footbridge named after the nearby St. Peter’s Chapel.
The bridge is famed as an architectural masterpiece, because of its wood construction and iconic covered style.
It is the world’s oldest covered wooden bridge and dates back to the year 1332.
The bridge was initially over 270 metres (890 ft) long, although numerous shortenings over the years and river bank replenishments mean the bridge now totals only 204.7 meters (672 ft) long.
Part of the bridge complex is the octagonal 34.5 m (113 ft) tall (from ground) Wasserturm, which translates to “water tower,” in the sense of “tower standing in the water.”
Over the centuries, the tower has been used as a prison, torture chamber, and later a municipal archive. Today, the tower is closed to the public, although it houses a local artillery association and a tourist gift shop.
The Chapel Bridge is unique in containing a number of interior paintings dating back to the 17th century, although many of them were destroyed along with a larger part of the centuries-old bridge in a 1993 fire.
Painted in triangular frames the paintings varied from 150 centimeters (59 in) to 181 centimeters (71 in) wide and 85 centimeters (33 in) to 95 centimeters (37 in) wide.
These artworks were made during the Counter-Reformation of the 17th century by local artist Hans Heinrich Wägmann and were painted on spruce wood boards.
The paintings were sponsored by the city’s council members, who, upon sponsoring a panel, were allowed to attribute their personal coat of arms on it. An explanation of each painting was printed below each scene.
A fire ravaged the bridge, destroying two thirds of the paintings. After the fire, 47 paintings were collected but only 30 of them were fully restored. The damaged paintings were then replaced with paintings that had been safely stored since 1834.
On August 18th, 1993, shortly after midnight, about two thirds of the wooden Chapel Bridge were destroyed by fire. Only the pillars, the bridgeheads and the Water Tower could be saved. Within a year, Chapel Bridge was completly restored, however.
The Chapel Bridge is Lucerne’s most photographed destination, it being held in high esteem by visitors and residents in equal measure.