Explore: Lion of Bavaria

July 10th 2023 in Explore
Explore: Lion of Bavaria

The Bavaria Lion

Ioannis Kapodistrias was chosen as Greece's first head of state shortly after its independence from the Ottoman Empire. In 1828, Kapodistrias visited Nafplio and was impressed by its strategic location and formidable defences. He declared it the official capital of Greece in 1829. His reign, however, would be brief.

In 1831, Kapodistrias was slain on the steps of the church of Saint Spyridon in central Nafplio, sparking instability throughout the country. The Great Powers that aided Greece in her independence struggle—Britain, France, and Russia—intervened and organised a series of meetings and conferences culminating in the London Conference of 1832. The Kingdom of Greece was established due to this conference, with Prince Otto, the second son of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, chosen as the new king.

When King Otto arrived in Greece in 1833 to take the throne, he was accompanied by about 3,500 Bavarian troops under the command of King Ludwig I to serve as royal guards until a sufficient local army could be raised and trained. Later that year, and into 1834, a typhoid outbreak struck Nafplio, decimating the population. During that time, many members of King Otto's royal guard died due to the disease.

King Ludwig commissioned the construction of a monument in Nafplion to honour these royal guards. He commissioned the German sculptor Christian Siegel to design a memorial similar to the Lion of Lucerne, which was built to commemorate compatriots killed in Paris during the French Revolution. When the gigantic sleeping lion sculpture was finished in 1836, it was immediately praised for its detail and recognised as one of the largest outdoor sculptures in Greece and one of the most important in Europe. An inscription in German and Greek beneath the sculpture explains that it is dedicated to the soldiers who died in the pandemic.

A park with seating in front of the Lion of Bavaria provides an excellent view of the sculpture.

Many of the troops were originally buried at the Church of Agia Pantes graveyard, which is built directly against the Rock of Palmidi. Their remains were unearthed and relocated to the vault of Nafplion's Catholic Church in 1852. The remaining soldiers were buried in the Bavarian Monuments northeast of Evaggelistria.