It was finished in 1880 and is entirely made of red sandstone. The blocks it is made from were individually sculpted then moved under Belfortcastle to be assembled. The colossal work is 22 meters long and 11 meters high and dominates the local landscape.
The lion symbolizes the heroic French resistance during the Siege of Belfort, a 103 days long Prussian assault (from December 1870 to February 1871). The city was protected from 40,000 Prussians by merely 17,000 men (only 3,500 were from the military) led by Colonel Denfert-Rochereau.
Instead of facing Prussia to the east as was intended, it was turned the other way because of German protests.
<gallery>Image:Hh11l1.jpg|People standing in front of the sculpture, showing its enormous size.Image:France-90-Belfort-Lion-Face.jpg|The face of the red sandstone lion.Image:Rue-de-paris-film103jpg.jpg|Bronze reduction of the sculpture in Paris.</gallery>