1882 Bellinzona

Actual 40 mm size by Edoardo Durussel, Berna


Helvetia, emblem of the Confederacy, doth bear upon her brow a wreath of laurel leaves, apt for her royal state. Her flowing mane, unbound and soft, cascades upon her shoulders, whilst she dons a tunic of scaled armor o'er a silken gown, an ornate sash loosely girded about her waist, her bare feet planted firmly upon the earth. With tender affection, she gently lays her arm upon the weary, broad shoulders of the venerable Old Man of the Gotthard Massif, Louis Favre.

His once robust stature, one may discern, was in days of yore all youthful vigor, his torso muscled and his shoulders broad, shaped by the diligent mastery of his craft. With steadfast resolve, he toiled ceaselessly to unite communities through impassable mountains of granite and rock. Now, the erstwhile indomitable Favre sits, his body slightly bowed with weariness and exhaustion. Yet with unwavering dedication, he still clutches in his hand the timber survey tool, in conscientious duty, never faltering until the very end. He casts a melancholy gaze upon his Lady, in mournful acknowledgment of her silent gratitude for his unyielding sacrifice, his labors that demanded his all, even unto his life.

In her left hand, she holds both a shield adorned with the revered Cross and a solitary stalk of alpine rose in full bloom, a tribute to the final journey of Louis Favre, the foremost chief builder engineer of the Gotthard Railway Tunnel.

In the distance, one may behold the fruition of his exceedingly laborious toil, the monumental and splendid Gotthard railway tunnel, completed and brought to life by locomotive trains finally able to traverse the alpine mountains.


A lone five-star emblem, aloft the intricate blazon arms of Bellinzona, doth call to mind its bygone days under the rule of House Visconti of Milan, wherein trade flourished and guided the town's grand expansion.

A pair of sharpshooter rifles, forming a cross, lie amidst oak and floral branches, signifying the shooting festival, poised to grace the champions of the marksmanship contest.


Louis Favre won the tender competition for the breakthrough of the great Gotthard railway tunnel launched in 1872 by engaging in an unfair contract for a realization of it in 8 years. The tunnel marked the first large-scale use of dynamite that had been patented in 1867.

The management of the works, the heiress Marie Augustine Favre (the daughter of Louis), engineers Edouard Bossi and Ernest von Stockalper, and a lawyer Louis Rambert. The tunnel will open on 1stJan 1882 and despite a short time-limit for a work of this magnitude and which was also a first, the Gotthard railway company will sue his heirs in court, because no force majeure clause was foreseen in the contract: the delay had been due to imponderables (flood of the gallery, etc.) and partly to counter-orders and late payments from the client.

During the drilling of the Grand Tunnel (1872 - 1882), the Gotthard Company, the prime contractor, had been under the orders of 3 different technical directorates, each directorate bringing divergent personal views of the project and processes. At St Gotthard, Louis Favre, who has risen alone, undertakes a tunnel incomparably more difficult, where all clauses are a threat against him, the 15-kilometer tunnel is pierced in 7 years 5 months, its cost is ten to twelve million less than that of Mount Cenis, and Favre dies victim of the persecutions he has endured and the Gotthard Railway Company that it saved a probable liquidation, has no greater concern after his death than to seize millions of his bail by ruining thoroughly his family and robbing sponsors. Around 200 workers died in its construction, the exact number is not known mainly due to water inrushes. The compressed air-driven trains carrying excavated material out of the tunnel also killed some. There were also serious health issues caused by an epidemic of hookworm infection. A strike of the workers in 1875, and was crushed by the Swiss Army, killing 4 and wounding 13.

An account of Louis Favre death by the general secretary of the company, Maxime Helene, based on the account of M. Stockalper, the engineer in chief:-

"For months before it must be said Favre had been growing old. The man of broad shoulders and with head covered with thick hair in which here and there a few silver threads showed themselves, and who was as straight as at the age of twenty years, had begun to stoop, his hair had whitened and his face had assumed an expression of sadness that it was difficult for him to conceal. As powerful as it was this character had been, the transformation had not escaped me. Often during the days that we passed together he complained of a dizziness that became more and more frequent. We all saw him rapidly growing old. On the 19th of July, 1879, he had entered the tunnel with one of his friends, a French engineer who had come to visit the work, accompanied by M. Stockalper. Up to the end of the adit he had complained of nothing, but, according to his habit, went along examining the timbers, stopping at different points to give instructions, and making now and then a sally at his friend, who was unused to the smell of dynamite. In returning he began to complain of internal pains. "My dear Stockalper," said he, "take my lamp, I will join you." At the end of ten minutes not seeing him return, M. Stockalper exclaimed, "Well! M. Favre, are you coming?" No answer. The visitor and engineer retraced their steps, and when they reached Favre he was leaning against the rocks with his head resting upon his breast. His heart had already ceased to beat. A train loaded with excavated rock was passing and on this was laid the already stiff body of him who had struggled up to his last breath to execute a work all science and labor. A glorious end, if ever there was one!" 

In memory of Louis Favre, the chief architect of the Gotthard railway tunnel, who had overcome countless obstacles to deliver the project, until his very end.







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