Gëlle Fra, Luxembourg City

It was confusing to drive around the city. It was crowded but I was lucky that I had managed to blend in with the flow of traffic. I didn’t get honked at or make unnecessary turns or stops. After following several signs, I found a parking lot underneath the city. There were plenty of space and it was per hour. I took the elevator up the Monterey Avenue and headed to the main city square. I passed along tall, buildings and when I reached an open space, I was amazed of what I saw. We were on top of a hill. There was the long bridge I passed through earlier and down the cliff was a manicured park with trails and benches. I walked to the square overlooking the whole area. In the area were parking lot and tourists taking pictures.

Gëlle Fra

I walked along the edge and gaze at the beautiful view in front of me. In the middle of the Constitution Square was a giant obelisk. It was Gelle Fra or Monument of Remembrance. It was dedicated to the thousands of Luxembourgers who volunteered for service in the armed forces of the Allied Powers during both World Wars and the Korean War. I walked to the obelisk and took some pictures and here is its history.

World War I

“During the First World War, Luxembourg pledged itself to neutrality, but was occupied by Germany, which justified its actions by citing military necessity. However, most Luxembourgers did not believe Germany’s good intentions, fearing that Germany would annex their country in the event of a German victory; these claims were substantiated by Bethmann Hollweg’s Septemberprogramm.

Although Luxembourgers left under German occupation at home could do little to aid the Allies, those overseas, outside Germany’s control, could volunteer to serve against Germany. In total, 3,700 Luxembourgian nationals served in the French army, of whom, 2,000 died. As Luxembourg’s pre-war population was only 266,000, this death toll amounted to more than 1% of the entire national population, which is a relatively greater percentage than many combatant nations.

In 1920 the National Monument Commission launched a competition for a monument dedicated to Luxembourgish soldiers who fought as volunteers during World War I. Among the 18 submissions, Claus Cito’s design entitled ‘Queen of Freedom’ (Friddenskinnigin in Luxembourgish) was selected. Its base comprises two male bronze figures, one representing a fallen soldier and the other showing his mourning compatriot. The middle piece is a 21 meter high obelisk, the top of which stands the gilded bronze statue of the Golden Lady.

The monument aroused public controversy at the time it was proposed and installed. Opposition had come from the conservative Catholic majority of citizens. Inaugurated in May 1923, the Grand Duchess Charlotte and the Bishop of Luxembourg were absent.

World War II onwards

“When Luxembourg was occupied by Nazi forces in World War II, the Germans dismantled the memorial on 21 October 1940. Several portions of the memorial were rescued, and after the war, the monument was partially restored. The Gëlle Fra herself however remained unaccounted for until January 1980 when she was found hidden beneath the main stand of the national football stadium. Later additions were made to honor Luxembourger forces who had served in World War II and the Korean War.

The monument was not fully reconstructed and restored to its original design until 1984 and then finally unveiled to the public in the presence of Grand Duke Jean on 23 June 1985, Luxembourg’s national holiday.

The statue of the gilded lady was removed from the obelisk and exhibited at the entrance of the Luxembourg pavilion of the Expo 2010 world exhibition in Shanghai.”

The focal point of the monument was a 21-metre-tall granite obelisk. On top of stands a gilded bronze statue representing Nike, goddess of victory, or “Queen of Freedom” (Friddenskinnigin in Luxembourgish), holding out a laurel wreath as if placing it upon the head of the nation. At the foot of the obelisk are two (ungilded) bronze figures, representing those Luxembourgish soldiers that volunteered to serve for France; one lies at the base of the statue, having died in service of his country, whilst the other sits, mourning his dead compatriot.

The inscriptions at the base of the monument include one in French, over the name of Foch, Marshal of France, Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces, that honours the Luxembourgeois soldiers who took part in the 1914-18 war, on the battlefields of the Marne, the Aisne and the Somme, and in Artois, Champagne and at Verdun.

Lady Rosa of Luxembourg

“In 2001, Croatian artist Sanja Ivekovic whose public works critically explore issues of womanhood, symbolism, and otherness, set up her ‘Lady Rosa of Luxembourg’ in immediate proximity to the Gëlle Fra, generating a storm of controversy. Whilst the title of the statue alludes to the German philosopher and Marxist theorist Rosa Luxemburg, its form is an exact replica of the Golden Lady, the sole difference being that the former is pregnant.

Tourist info

The artist’s aim was to illustrate the situation of women within society; the text at the base of the monument refers not only to the different roles and attributes ascribed to women, but also to the stereotyping labels given to women such as ‘whore’ and ‘virgin’. The pregnant form of Lady Rosa refers to the child-bearing role of women as well as to the sexual violence they face. Some people, though, felt that the statue of a second Golden Lady undermined and even distorted the patriotic message of the original Lady. After a series of heated debates Lady Rosa was eventually dismounted from her pedestal.”

That’s it for the long and controversial history of Gelle Fra as I walked along the square and then headed to my next destination.

Here are the links for more information:


Say Cheez!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s