For Munich citizens the bronze lions in front of the Residenz are sights just like the Frauenkirche (St. Mary’s church) or the Hofbräuhaus. But why are there lions? And why do citizens passing by always touch them? Let the greeters explain…
Why are there bronze-lions in fornt of the Residenz?
The lion is the Bavarian heraldic charge since a long time. The lion was used in signs and flags of the former ruling family (the Wittelsbacher) since the 12th/13th century. And as a tourist you will notice that the lion as symbol is strongly connected with Bavaria and Munich.
You can see them nearly everywhere: At the feet of the Bavaria statue, in front of the Feldherrnhalle (field marshals hall), as logo of a well known Munich brewery, as a logo of a Munich football club, in the entire city as “lions parade” and of course in front of the Residenz. There are four of them, holding an escutcheon. Those four lions are the originals, and about 400 years old (!). At the bottom edge of the shield/escutcheon there is again a lions muzzle which is brighter, because of the citizens traditionally and the tourists (because it is mentioned in their guide) rubbing the muzzle.
Why do people rub the lions muzzle?
In short: Munich citizens believe this brings luck. So if you watch the statues a bit longer especially on warm sunny days, you will notice a lot of pedestrians touching the muzzle. But you will also notice some differences. Tourists rub the muzzle very concentrated and extensive. You will know when a Munich citizen touches the muzzle, because they only touch it briefly while passing by – sometimes even without looking at the muzzle. For citizens this is the most normal thing in the world :-).
But why does it bring luck, rubbing the muzzles? – Well, there are a lot of legends but one of them seems to prevail:
At the time of king Ludwig I. it was very indecent for men to only have lovers or to have other women beneath their wife. But king Ludwig cared little about that and always felt attracted to Lola Montez. This made a young student so angry that he wrote a protest letter end pinned it on the door of the Residenz.
The next morning the letter was shown to the king who was so upset that he gave orders to search for the bad guys (plural!) who wrote the letter. Furthermore, the king announced a bounty for those who bring the writers of that letter. As the student heard the king’s guards were looking for more than one offender, he felt his honour disgraced. This lead him to write another letter (stating that there was only one offender) and to pin it on the door in the following night. While doing so, he was caught by guards which brought him to the king. The king was so amused and impressed by this young student and his courage that he pardoned him. He even gave him the bounty which made the student very happy. In his exuberance, he ran home touching the lions muzzles. From that time on, touching the muzzles was said to bring luck.
Because there are so many legends, there is no proof if it brings luck to touch only one muzzle or if you need to touch all four of them :-).
Note: Because many generations of people rubbed the muzzles and the bronze doesn’t like that, the original lions are replaced by copies until the year 2015. Those copies can be rubbed until they’re gone :-). The original statues will be brought to the Residenz museum where they can be seen behind glass. To calm down the superstitious people, only two of the statues were brought to the restoration workshop.
When visiting the inner city, try to visit the lions. You don’t want to leave without extra luck, will you?!