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Grand St Bernard Pass

Situated on the border with Italy at an altitude of 2,469m (8,103 ft), the St Bernard Pass, or Col du Grand-St-Bernard, is the oldest of all Alpine pass routes. An isolated nexus between western Europe and Italy, it has been used since at least 800 BC. Julius Caesar came over the pass in the 1st century BC, followed by Charlemagne in 800, on the return from his coronation in Milan, and Napoleon in 1800. The pass is named after Bernard of Menthon, Bishop of Aosta, who built a hospice for travellers here in 1049. In recognition of his missionary work, St Bernard was beatified after his death, in the 1080s, and was later made patron saint of the Alps. The hospice on the pass has been inhabited by monks ever since and is still open to travellers all year round. The present building, which dates from the 18th century, incorporates a 17th-century church, in which a casket containing the remains of St Bernard is displayed. The treasury has a collection of liturgical vessels. There is also a museum, Musee et Chiens du Saint-Bernard, with exhibits documenting the history of the pass since pre-Roman times and kennels for the famous rescue dogs. The dogs can be watched training both indoors and outdoors but no petting or playing with them is permitted. Because of its elevation and heavy snowfalls in winter, the pass itself can be used only between mid-June and October. However, the St Bernard Tunnel, running 6km (4 miles) under the pass, provides a year-round route between Switzerland and Italy.

Grand St Bernard Pass Photo Gallery

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