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Great Saint Bernard Hospice


A refuge conducted by canons regular of st. augustine on the 8,114-foot high Great St. Bernard Pass over the Pennine Alps from Martigny, Valais, Switzerland, to Aosta, Italy (50 miles); it is in the Diocese of Sion, Switzerland. The pass, where there was a Celtic and then a Roman shrine (Mons Jovis ), has long been used by armies, merchants, pilgrims, kings, and popes. There was a Carolingian Hospice of St. Peter, probably under Benedictines, at nearby Bourg-Saint-Pierre. The hospice founded c. 1050 by St. bernard of aosta, with a chapel of St. Nicholas, came to be dedicated to St. Bernard by the 12th century. It was cared for by brothers (1145), canons (1191), and Augustinians of Martigny (13th century). Medieval popes and emperors who used the pass favored the hospice with privileges and benefices in many lands. In 1752 the hospice was made a provostship independent of that of Aosta, which had been commendatory (14651586); and the provost received pontifical privileges of miter and crozier. Napoleon favored the hospice after passing there with his army to the battle of Marengo (1801). A highway (190305) and a tunnel (1963) have reduced the rescue duties of the canons, many of whom gave their lives in their work; the hospice now serves tourists and skiers. In 1933 the canons extended their work to the evangelization of Tibet and China. Hospice buildings comprise a church (1669), a convent, and guest houses; the archives, library (30,000 volumes), and museum are notable. In 1964 there were 20 canons. The famous St. Bernard dogs have been used in rescue work since the 17th century.

Bibliography: l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 193539) 1:132021. l. quaglia, La Maison du Grand St. Bernard, des origines aux temps actuels (Aosta 1955). a. pellouchoud, Le Grand-St-Bernard (Lausanne 1954); Der Grosse Sankt Bernhard (Grand-St-Bernard 1964). m. giroud, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 9:135.

[a. maissen]

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