Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Fountain of Justice), Bern (must see)
Due to Hans Gieng's famous statue of Lady Justice, the Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen surpasses all other Bernese fountains in artistic merit. The iconic figure was copied throughout Switzerland up until the middle of the 17th century. At the feet of Justice, four smaller busts crowd the pedestal: a Pope, an Emperor, a Sultan and a Schultheiss, whose golden chain of office is believed to have originally borne the Bernese arms. All figures have closed their eyes as in submission. They represent the Four Earthly Powers, the four forms of government according to Renaissance humanism: theocracy (the Pope), monarchy (the Emperor), autocracy (the Sultan) and the republic (the Schultheiss).
The statue represents the supremacy of Justice over all Earthly authorities; a variant of the medieval pictorial formula of virtue defeating vice. Divine Justice was a frequent element of political discourse in Reformation-era Bern. In the view of the reformators, doing justice according to God's word was the highest duty of all authority, superseding feudal rights. Such arguments were used, among others, to justify Bern's conquest of Vaud in 1536 from the dukes of Savoy.
While the sword and scales are traditional attributes of Lady Justice, the Bernese statue's blindfold is a novelty; only later did it become a common element in personifications of Justice and a general symbol for the principle of equality before the law. The blindfold implies that justice ought to be done without respect to rank or standing; that a just verdict is arrived at through introspection rather than with a view to outward looks. Gieng's Lady Justice is a symbol of republican justice and was a forceful public reminder of the Bernese Republic's authority through law.
Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Bern. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.
Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Fountain of Justice) on Map
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