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Artists - ArtWorks

Name of the Artist / Artwork:

Brunswick Lion

Country: Germany
Century: 1100 - The 12th Century
Artist / Artwork Description:

Since mediaeval times the Brunswick Lion, 1166, is the town’s landmark, his original place was the middle of Castle Square (Burgplatz) at the heart of the city. Nowadays there can be seen an exact replica whereas the original can be viewed in Dankwarderode Castle (Burg Dankwarderode).
The Brunswick Lion is the first bronze hollow casting north of the Alps and actually the first freestanding figural monument ever since antiquity. It is a major example of a Romanesque sculpture.

Synthetic Chronology:

The Castle Lion of Brunswick was erected by Henry the Lion while strengthening Brunswick as his seat of royal power in the 1160s and 70s. Henry must have placed the order for the bronze lion before 1064 given that the production of the monument must have lasted at least two years. Coins showing the image of the Brunswick Lion can be dated on 1166 and first written proof can be found in the first half of the 13th century (the Brunswick Lion is marked on the Ebstorfer world map from approx. 1300).
Even though the artists are not namely known, it’s assumed that not less than two master craftsmen shared the work. One moulding the lion of clay, and another casting the lion in bronze.

The Context:

Henry the Lion (1129 - 1195) was a member of the Guelph dynasty and Duke of Bavaria and Saxony. He supported his older cousin Frederick I (Barbarossa) and in 1168 got married with Mathilda, the daughter of Henry II of England and sister of Richard Lionheart. Both contributed to his influential status and power and for some years he was considered to be the most powerful German Duke besides the emperor Barbarossa.
Henry the Lion made Brunswick his royal capital and as a symbol of his power he erected the Dankwarderode Castle, Brunswick Cathedral and the Brunswick Bronze Lion.


Henry the Lion took part in the Italian campaigns of Frederick I (Barbarossa) and for that reason it can be assumed he knew the masterpieces of Italian statuary like the Capitoline Wolf in Rome or the lion next to St. Marks in Venice. Not only Henry but also the artists moulding the Brunswick Lion had certainly been inspired by Roman statuary. (In newer times it was assumed that probably the Capitoline Wolf in Rome is younger than the Brunswick Lion and there is some evidence yet. Further analysis will show weather the Capitoline Wolf was erected in the 6th century or as latterly supposed the 12th or 13th century.)
With erecting the lion’s statue duke Henry the Lion erected a symbol for his power. As his name implies the lion was his heraldic animal. Lions have been an important symbol of royalty and stateliness and a symbol of bravery across different cultures for thousands of years. Lions are often used in heraldry and appear on many flags, coats of arms, and emblems.

National Comparative:

At the time the artists started with the making of the Brunswick Lion there had been some other large bronze casts in the area around Brunswick, e.g. the doors and pillars of the Hildesheimer cathedral, which they certainly knew. Art historical investigations revealed in the middle of the 19th century that there are direct similarities with the lion’s monument on Frederick of Wettin’s tomb in Magdeburg and other artwork manufactured in Magdeburg. It’s spoken of the Wettin school.
Today copies of the Brunswick Lion can be found in different German cities, e.g. Goslar, Lübeck, Schwerin, Weingarten, Blankenburg and even in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and near Harvard University in Massachusetts.

Artistic Analysis:

The Brunswick Lion as a major example of a Romanesque sculpture is a beyond life-size bronze monument.
Some characterising data:
Height: 1,785 m, Length: 2,80 m, Breadth: 0,64 m, Weight: approx. 845 kg
The lion is standing upright, the head held high, both hind legs are stretched and the tail is hanging down. The whole body seems to be under tension. The mouth is open and you can see some teeth.
The Brunswick Lion is situated in the courtyard with his face towards the Dankwarderode Castle.
There are many examples, where lions (or other animals) seem to guard castle entries or bridges, but this case is different. It nearly seems that the lion is paying respect to Henry the Lion, at that time the lord of Dankwarderode Castle.
At large the lion appeals powerful, strong but not aggressive at all. At this point one could speculate about analogies between the bronze lion and Henry the Lion himself, but there is too little known about Henry’s life and his personality for maintainable statements.
Detailed analysis of the lion’s material revealed that it must have been gold-plated once. The other metals used for the bronze-cast are copper (73-83 %), zinc (4-12 %), lead (2-6,5 %) and stannous (7,2-12,9 %). The bronze is maximum 12 mm thick, only the paws are of massive metal.

Transnational Comparative Analysis:

As mentioned above the Brunswick Lion’s creation was certainly inspired by some Italian monuments, e.g. the lion next to St. Marks in Venice. It’s supposed that the artists made enquiries in Italy before they started their work. This belief is corroborated by a comparison of the outer shape of both lions, the one in Venice and the one in Brunswick.
Depictions of lions can be found all over the world and during all centuries.

Development of the artist's work through the years:

Over the years the Brunswick Lion had been restored many times, for example in 1616 and 1841. In 1858 extensive renovations were linked with first metallurgical analysis.
In 1937 a realistic copy of the Brunswick Lion was produced and during World War II the original was hidden in a mine and afterwards in 1945 has to be renovated once again.
The largest renovation so far took place from 1980 to 1983 and several scientists were engaged in detailed analysis.


The Brunswick Lion is the first bronze hollow casting north of the Alps and actually the first freestanding figural monument ever since antiquity. The only written source for artists in this time had been the “10 books on architecture” by Vitruv, which can explain similar (not lifelike) proportions of both lions in Venice and Brunswick. There had been no examples of hollow casts until then. Therefore one guesses that the artists newly-invented the technique used to cast large hollow bronze statues only guided by looking on above mentioned Italian examples, knowing something about cast techniques, e.g. bell-founding and creating new ideas.
Certainly the Brunswick Lion has inspired other artists and other bronze artwork since then.


Martin Gosebruch (Hrsg.): Der Braunschweiger Löwe. Bericht über ein wissenschaftliches Symposion in Braunschweig vom 12.10. bis 15.10.1983. In: Schriftenreihe der Kommission für Niedersächsische Bau- und Kunstgeschichte bei der Braunschweigischen Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft. Göttingen 1985

Karl Jordan, Martin Gosebruch: 800 Jahre Braunschweiger Burglöwe 1166 – 1966. Braunschweig 1967

Jochen Luckhardt und Franz Niehoff (Hrsg.): Heinrich der Löwe und seine Zeit. Herrschaft und Repräsentation der Welfen 1125 – 1235. Katalog der Ausstellung, Braunschweig 1995

Gerd Spies (Hrsg.): Der Braunschweig Löwe. In: Braunschweiger Werkstücke, Band 62, Braunschweig 1985

Related Material:

Image available

File name: 52_burgloewe-1.jpg

Description of the material:

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Contextualisation Of the source:

The original of the Brunswick Lion can be seen in the Dankwardrode Castle in Brunswick. The Brunswick Lion is the town’s landmark. Brunswick has some 246,000 inhabitants and is the biggest city located between Hannover and Berlin. To protect the original statue against weather and pollution influences since 1989 an exact replica stands in at the original place in front of the castle.

Interpretation of the source:

The Brunswick Lion is a beyond life-size bronze monument. It is the first bronze hollow casting north of the Alps and actually the first freestanding figural monument ever since antiquity.

Comments about this Artist/ArtWork

Date: 2009.04.27

Posted by Diana Giglio

Message: In Italy, in the XI e XII century, sculpture of cathedrals is spread mainly in the form of bas-relief (to watch works of Benedetto Antelami, Wiligelmo and Nicola Pisano).Bas-riliefs have an educational and didatic aim:important is the clear visibility of the scenes and the inspiration to the religious stories.
you have not considered this sculpure's aspect because it is not very clear?

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