In medieval times, it was believed that dragons with healing powers lived in the rugged clefts and crevices of Mount Pilatus.
In the summer of 1421, a powerful dragon flew to Mount Pilatus and landed so close to a farmer by the name of Stempflin that he fainted. When the farmer came to, he discovered a lump of coagulated blood and a dragon stone, the healing powers of which were officially confirmed in 1509.
The chronicle of Petermann Etterlin tells how Regional Governor Winkelried killed one of the Mount Pilatus dragons: he wrapped a spear with thorn twigs and thrust it into the open mouth of the dragon, finishing the beast off with a sword. In the process, drops of poisonous dragon's blood spurted on to his hand. These drops - and the poisonous breath of the dying dragon - froze the blood in Winkelried's veins and he also met his death.
In the early hours of the morning of 26 May 1499, a wondrous spectacle was seen in Lucerne: after a terrible thunderstorm, an enormous, wingless dragon rose out of the wild waters of the River Reuss at the Spreuer bridge. The beast had probably been taken by surprise by the thunderstorm and washed down from Mount Pilatus in the Krienbach, which flows into the Reuss beneath the Jesuit church. Several well-respected and educated townspeople authenticated the truth of this story.
How the young cooper was saved by the Pilatus dragonsOne sunny day, a young cooper arrived in the Pilatus region. It was late in the year and he was searching for rods with which to make barrel hoops in winter. Deep in his search, without thinking, he climbed higher and higher up the forbidden mountain. Not until dusk began to fall did he realise with horror that he was just beneath the summit. Terrified, he started to hurry downwards but stumbled and lost his footing. He tumbled down and down into a deep black void and finally lost consciousness. When he came to, with a painful swelling on his forehead, the sun was already high in the heavens. But all he could see was a tiny glimpse of blue sky. He was trapped in a cave deep inside the mountain!
The opening through which the daylight was shining was far, far above his head. Oh no, what could that be? He peered deeper into the darkness of the cave and his blood froze in his veins! Two gigantic beasts with scaly bodies and fiery breath were staring at him. Believing his last moment had come, the cooper crossed himself, his hands shaking with fear as the beasts slowly drew closer and closer. To his great astonishment, the enormous creatures meant him no harm. They sniffed him all over, curiously but gently, before again turning to lick at the moon-milk, welling rich and thick from the cave walls.
And so the cooper spent the next few months in the dragons' den. Winter covered the mountain with ice and snow, but he remained quite snug and warm in the cave, eating the moon-milk and at night nestling like a baby into the warmth of the dragons' huge bodies.
One glorious day, the spring sun burst into the cave. Birds chirped joyfully outside and the sweet scent of thousands of spring flowers stole into the depths of the mountain. The dragons lifted their great horny heads and unfurled their mighty wings. One of them flew out into the warm spring sunshine. But the second dragon came close to the cooper and snorted gently, as if to tell him that the time had come to leave their winter home. The cooper plucked up courage, grabbed hold of the dragon's tail and suddenly they were both soaring in the fresh spring air, high above the cave. The cooper thought his heart would burst with joy as he felt the warm sunshine playing on his face. Carefully the dragon lowered him onto a flower-carpeted meadow. The young man waved to his winter companion for a last time before taking to his heels and running as fast as he could back down to the valley.
Such rejoicing as never before was heard in Lucerne as the cooper's friends flung their arms around him. They had long given him up for lost! He had to tell the incredible story of his rescue on the dreaded mountain over and over and over again. Finally he had the tale of his adventure embroidered on a silken tunicle, still found to this very day in the possession of the Church of St. Leodegar in Lucerne.
Ever since then, the Pilatus dragons have been revered as good-natured, helpful creatures. And sometimes, on a dark night, when the moon is playing hide and seek behind ragged clouds, a giant shadow passes across its face. Visitors to Mount Pilatus may just catch the faint sound of the beating of leather wings. Should this happen and a trace of the beneficial powers dust lightly over them, then they are very lucky people indeed!