This fountain stands prominently at the center of the Lindenhof hill park overlooking the Limmat river and the Altstadt (old town) of Zürich.
The Hedwig Fountain “was built in 1912. The helmeted statue of a woman beside the fountain was made by Gustav Siber. It was built to honor the Zürich women who defended the city by duping the army of Duke Albert I of Germany during the siege of Zürich in 1292. They dressed in full battle gear in order to trick the Habsburg army into thinking that the city was well protected while their men were busy campaigning at Winterthur.” [Wikipedia]
As always, full-res photos are available in the gallery (here).
I’ve always enjoyed seeing this fountain, anchoring thesquare in front of the Hotel zum Storchen and, this time of year, surrounded by the tables of a café operated out of the hotel. Indeed, when I was last passing by, I saw a waiter from the café pause to fill a water jug from the fountain and carry it to one of the guest tables.
I was long unclear about the nature of this person – who is he? what is he doing? why is he celebrated on a fountain in a prominent square in Zürich?
Again with a tip from Jean Rosston ’77, I believe this statue depicts a man who picks wine grapes; he is wearing a traditional wooden basket on his back, and the ‘arbor’ around the fountain includes sculpted grape leaves. I’ve since learned the square is called Weinplatz, lending credence to this explanation.
The fountain is mentioned in another webpage – without explanation of the fountain, but some historical tidbits about the hotel.
This fountain, on the side of a government building in downtown Zürich, likely depicts the story of “Felix and Regula, together with their servant Exuperantius, [who] are the patron saints of Zürich” [Wikipedia]. (Kudos again to Jean Rosston ’77 for the tip that led me to this interpretation.)
In this story, told in more detail on Wikipedia, they were members of a Roman legion that escaped when their legion was to be executed, later caught in Zürich, tried and executed in the year 286. “After decapitation, they miraculously stood to their feet, picked up their own heads, walked forty paces uphill, and prayed before lying down in death. They were buried on the spot where they lay down, on the hilltop which would become the site of the Grossmünster.”
This story “largely contributed to the massive conversion of the inhabitants of these regions to Christianity and had such an impact on Zurich that these three saints still appear on the seal of Zurich today.” [Wikipedia]
One of the most visible fountains in the city is at Bellevue, a large plaza in front of the opera house and seated at the corner of the lakefront. It is also a busy interchange of several tram lines, and a favorite for people who want to meet, sit in a cafe, and watch the world go by.
This fountain is of simple, bowl-shaped design, but exceptionally wide; around the rim are playful decorative spouts enabling anyone to stop by for a drink. While I was there one sunny weekend afternoon, so many people came by to fill their water bottle, that a line had formed.
Most of the fountains I encounter in Zürich – and most of those I’ve shared here – are constructed from concrete or metal, or sculpted from stone, to form pillars or bowls or human figures. But there is another fascinating trend in fountains, most often visible along the forested trails of Zürichberg or Uetliberg, the hills that straddle the Zürichsee valley. These natural fountains, made from boulders or logs, can be plain and functional, or playfully elaborate, or almost zen-like in their simplicity. Here are a few examples; see 19 photos in the gallery, beginning here.
I often pass this fountain, built into a hillside near the top of the Rigiblick Seilbahn, as it is one of my preferred routes down from Zürichberg. One warm spring day I was planning to photograph the fountain from across the street when this boy came pedaling up the steep street, and stopped for a drink. An old woman stood a few meters away – in this era of social distancing – waiting her turn to approach the fountain. A middle-aged man came by, and refilled his water bottle. All in a matter of minutes! I eventually got the photo I came for – of the fountain with no people – but I actually like this one better.
Today we went for lunch in a cozy Indian restaurant on Predigerplatz, a quiet church square in Altstadt between the bustling Limmat riverfront and the busy university district. We paused to look at this fountain – topped with a boy seated on a frog – and wondered (as we often have) about the symbolism or story behind this one!
It appears to be made of sandstone or, anyway, some highly porous stone that weathers easily. I’ve noticed that about many of the statues and gargoyles across the city. Presumably it is less expensive – but won’t last more than a few decades. Why would the city, church, university, or other building owner choose such a short-lived material in such an old city? Another puzzle.
Recalling a Röthlisberger statue – and the story behind a fountain.
Forgive me if I return for a moment to the Röthlisberger statues. Today I was walking past the statue called d’Frou Wallimaa, which is of an old woman carrying a bag, and lo, next to it was an old woman carrying a bag. She had stopped to answer a cellphone call, reminiscent of another Röthlisberger statue, Handy. I couldn’t resist a photo!
Also, a follow-up to my post about the fountains of Bahnhofstrasse, in which I was unsure about the story behind a fountain with this lovely carving and an inscription in German.
Thanks to Jean Rosston ’77, who has lived in Zürich for decades and recently retired as an art conservator at the city’s major art museum, the Kunsthaus, we realized the carving and inscription refer to a Biblical story:
Genesis 24:17 And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher. Genesis 24:18 And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink.
Contemporary designs – and links to other bloggers.
Although most of the fountains you’ve seen me highlight, thus far, have been of a classical design, you’ve also seen a few with a more contemporary style – like the Münsterhof fountain so enjoyed by that dog late last week. Today I thought I’d highlight a few more of the contemporary designs I’ve found… all quite different!
As usual, I show only a few photos here, and only at a small size; these and eight other photos were added to the gallery today, starting here.
PS. It turns out other bloggers have highlighted Zurich’s fountains, including Annette’s bucket-list journey (I’ve found almost of of those she photographed), Anita’s sane travel blog (same!), and Tall Stories 33, a 5-minute audio blog, which claims Zürich has more fountains than any other city in the world, approximately 1,200. The latter provides some interesting historic background. Indeed, I’ve noticed many fountains labeled with dates from the early 1700s.