Why do so many people touch the muzzle of the bronze lions in front of the Residenz? Because our reporter, a northerner, was unable to answer this question satisfactorily when asked by a tourist, he decided to investigate.
I was just leaving the Franziskaner pub and heading for the underground on Odeonsplatz, when a London tourist approached me and asked: “Why does almost every passer-by touch at least one of the bronze lions’ muzzles when passing the Residenz?” “It’s supposed to bring luck,” I answered somewhat vaguely. “And where does this custom come from?” the English lady persisted. I mumbled something about the Bavarian King Ludwig I. “Very interesting,” she told me. “But where do the lions come into the story?”
At this point I had to pass. That was all I knew. I wished the woman a pleasant stay and ordered myself to brush up on my measly knowledge and to go on a sightseeing tour the following day. Because here, the story is told in detail and, incidentally, in many different languages. Whether it really happened exactly as it is told or whether parts have been modified over the one and a half centuries that have since passed is, like with all good legends, irrelevant.
Mocking the king’s mistress
In 1848, the last year of King Ludwig I’s reign, the people of Munich gossiped most viciously about the king’s new mistress: the Irish dancer Lola Montez. Especially the students poked fun at her. The king was so angry that he ordered the university to close temporarily. In protest, a young student wrote a lampoon and attached it to the gates of the Residenz. This made the king even angrier. So angry, in fact, that he offered a reward for the capture of the culprit, which in turn caused the student to stick another document onto the gates of the Residenz, in which he admitted to having done the deed. However, he was seen by the guards, arrested and brought before the king immediately.
But, astonishingly, the monarch took a liking to the boy. He not only pardoned him, but also gave him the reward money. The student, who had imagined he would have to spend the near future holed up in a dark prison cell, could hardly believe his luck. Weak-kneed, he stumbled back outside. In the one hand he clutched the sack with money, with the other he held exhaustedly onto the muzzle of one of the mighty bronze lions. The people stopped and applauded him. And they began to believe: if you stroke the lion’s muzzle, you will be very lucky one day, maybe even bring home a sack of money.
Only 2 lions left – where are the others?
P.S.: The fact that only two lions remain in front of the Residenz does not mean that people stop believing in the lucky muzzle – as can be seen every day. And they don’t care either that these are only copies. The other two lions, also copies, are currently being restored and will return soon. But the four original lions, tired of constantly being touched, have been withdrawn from the public to recover and will soon be allowed to move into their new enclosure, where they will be out of reach of people’s grabbling hands: in the Residenz Museum. Lucky lions!