Sunday, March 7, 2010

Great St. Bernard Pass and Hospice - Switzerland

1928 Gd St Bernard

Edition Phot. Perrocet, Lausanne

Postmarked from France in 2009 with a France stamp

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Great St Bernard Pass is the most ancient pass through the Western Alps, with evidence of use as far back as the Bronze Age and surviving traces of a Roman road. In 1800 Napoleon's army used the path to enter Italy. Having been bypassed by easier and more practical routes, its value today is mainly historical and recreational.

A hospice for travellers was founded in 1049 by Saint Bernard of Menthon and came to be named after him in the 16th century, along with the pass. It was not the first hospice in the pass. Buildings were probably there since the Roman mansio, but the region was not secure and they were destroyed many times. The first concern of the founder of the current monastery was to clear the region of bandits and keep the pass safe for travellers, the role of rescuers developing naturally. The hospice later became famous for its use of St. Bernard dogs in rescue operations. Pope Pius XI confirmed Bernard as patron saint of the Alps in 1923.

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