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Col du Grand St-Bernard
ViaFrancigena
ViaFrancigena
Stage 13, Col du Grand St-Bernard–Rom (I)
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ViaFrancigena
ViaFrancigena
Stage 12, Bourg-St-Pierre–Col du Gd St-Bernard
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Alpine Passes Trail
Alpine Passes Trail
Stage 26, Col du Gd St-Bernard–La Fouly
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Alpine Passes Trail
Alpine Passes Trail
Stage 25, Bourg-St-Pierre–Col du Gd St-Bernard
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Bourg-Saint-Pierre
Col du Grand St-Bernard

Col du Grand St-Bernard

At 2469 m above sea level, the Great St. Bernard Pass is Switzerland's third highest pass, and is the most important link between Western Switzerland and Italy. Two very different heroes have made this pass famous: Barry the rescue dog, and Napoleon, the military commander.
This pass links Martigny in the Rhone Valley (Valais) with the Aosta Valley and the Piedmont region in Italy. It was already one of the most important Alpine crossings back in the days of the Roman Empire. It takes its name from Saint Bernard of Aosta, who founded the Great St. Bernard Hospice at the top of the pass in 1050. This plain and rather gloomy complex of buildings set in the middle of a rocky wasteland was one of the first institutions dedicated to rescuing victims of mountain emergencies, and it achieved particular fame because of the St. Bernard species of dogs that were bred there. From about 1750 onwards, these dogs were successfully used to search for avalanche victims and travellers who had lost their way while crossing the pass. The most famous St. Bernard dog was Barry (1800–1814), who is said to have saved more than 40 human lives.

The Great St. Bernard also earned its place in history thanks to Napoleon, who marched southwards over the pass in May 1800 while it was still covered by snow, with an army of 40,000 men and heavy arms to confront the Austrian troops near the city of Alessandria in Italy.

Despite its importance, the Great St. Bernard had to wait until 1906 for a road to be built over the pass, due to disagreements between the authorities in the Valais and the Aosta Valley, as well as technical difficulties. The huge hairpin bends leading down to Aosta on the southern side of the pass are regarded as masterpieces of roadbuilding. For a long time, however, the road was only passable for a few months during summer due to the unfavourable climate conditions. Finally, in 1964, the first transalpine road tunnel in Europe was opened at 1915 meters above sea level, and the road link has largely been safe against winter weather since then. Although the journey over the pass is about 10 km longer, it offers more attractive scenery and is also served by a PostBus route from Orsières. The St. Bernard dog breeding kennels at the hospice still delight travellers during the summer months, and it is also worth visiting the Hospice Museum, with exhibits narrating the history of the pass and other attractions such as a valuable collection of excavated coins and objects dating from the Roman era. The mortuary (built in 1476) houses the mummified bodies of travellers who died in accidents, but is no longer accessible nowadays.

The hike to the Chenalette viewpoint at 2789 meters above sea level is highly recommended. This begins directly from the Hospice Museum, which is also the starting point for the famous hike along the ridge to Val Ferret. The Super St-Bernard skiing area is located near the northern entrance to the road tunnel. The somewhat harsh climate on the Great St. Bernard ensures that this small skiing area usually starts its season early.

Highlights

  • Hospice Museum with ancient Roman objects, sculptures, inscriptions and coins as well as a collection of minerals and insects from the region.
  • Museum of church treasures with relics, manuscripts and a Byzantine cross, etc..
  • St. Bernard Museum in Martigny (with live animals bred at the Hospice).
At 2469 m above sea level, the Great St. Bernard Pass is Switzerland's third highest pass, and is the most important link between Western Switzerland and Italy. Two very different heroes have made this pass famous: Barry the rescue dog, and Napoleon, the military commander.
This pass links Martigny in the Rhone Valley (Valais) with the Aosta Valley and the Piedmont region in Italy. It was already one of the most important Alpine crossings back in the days of the Roman Empire. It takes its name from Saint Bernard of Aosta, who founded the Great St. Bernard Hospice at the top of the pass in 1050. This plain and rather gloomy complex of buildings set in the middle of a rocky wasteland was one of the first institutions dedicated to rescuing victims of mountain emergencies, and it achieved particular fame because of the St. Bernard species of dogs that were bred there. From about 1750 onwards, these dogs were successfully used to search for avalanche victims and travellers who had lost their way while crossing the pass. The most famous St. Bernard dog was Barry (1800–1814), who is said to have saved more than 40 human lives.

The Great St. Bernard also earned its place in history thanks to Napoleon, who marched southwards over the pass in May 1800 while it was still covered by snow, with an army of 40,000 men and heavy arms to confront the Austrian troops near the city of Alessandria in Italy.

Despite its importance, the Great St. Bernard had to wait until 1906 for a road to be built over the pass, due to disagreements between the authorities in the Valais and the Aosta Valley, as well as technical difficulties. The huge hairpin bends leading down to Aosta on the southern side of the pass are regarded as masterpieces of roadbuilding. For a long time, however, the road was only passable for a few months during summer due to the unfavourable climate conditions. Finally, in 1964, the first transalpine road tunnel in Europe was opened at 1915 meters above sea level, and the road link has largely been safe against winter weather since then. Although the journey over the pass is about 10 km longer, it offers more attractive scenery and is also served by a PostBus route from Orsières. The St. Bernard dog breeding kennels at the hospice still delight travellers during the summer months, and it is also worth visiting the Hospice Museum, with exhibits narrating the history of the pass and other attractions such as a valuable collection of excavated coins and objects dating from the Roman era. The mortuary (built in 1476) houses the mummified bodies of travellers who died in accidents, but is no longer accessible nowadays.

The hike to the Chenalette viewpoint at 2789 meters above sea level is highly recommended. This begins directly from the Hospice Museum, which is also the starting point for the famous hike along the ridge to Val Ferret. The Super St-Bernard skiing area is located near the northern entrance to the road tunnel. The somewhat harsh climate on the Great St. Bernard ensures that this small skiing area usually starts its season early.

Highlights

  • Hospice Museum with ancient Roman objects, sculptures, inscriptions and coins as well as a collection of minerals and insects from the region.
  • Museum of church treasures with relics, manuscripts and a Byzantine cross, etc..
  • St. Bernard Museum in Martigny (with live animals bred at the Hospice).

Arrival and return Col du Grand St-Bernard

Adresse

Office du tourisme de Liddes et Bourg-St-Pierre
Route du Gd-St-Bernard 18
1945 Liddes
Tel. +41 (0)27 775 38 72
liddes@saint-bernard.ch
www.saint-bernard.ch

Services

Accommodation

Cabane de Valsorey CAS
Cabane de Valsorey CAS
Bourg-St-Pierre
Cabane du Vélan CAS
Cabane du Vélan CAS
Bourg-St-Pierre
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Hiking in

Col du Grand St-Bernard
ViaFrancigena
ViaFrancigena
Stage 13, Col du Grand St-Bernard–Rom (I)
Show all
ViaFrancigena
ViaFrancigena
Stage 12, Bourg-St-Pierre–Col du Gd St-Bernard
Show all
Alpine Passes Trail
Alpine Passes Trail
Stage 26, Col du Gd St-Bernard–La Fouly
Show all
Alpine Passes Trail
Alpine Passes Trail
Stage 25, Bourg-St-Pierre–Col du Gd St-Bernard
Show all