Valais Sights

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L'Hospice du Grand St. Bernard

L'Hospice du Grand St. Bernard Review

In operation since the Middle Ages, L'Hospice du Grand St. Bernard has played host to kings, princes, and famous writers like Charles Dickens and Alexandre Dumas. Within these walls you'll find cozy guest rooms and a stone dining hall where you can revive yourself over bowls of soup, slabs of creamy cheese, honey-sweetened tea, and carafes of red wine produced in the Valais. The facility includes an excellent museum with exhibits about the history of the pass and the devoted monks of the Order of St. Augustine who have lived here. Displays of church treasures—chalices, crosses, and altar clothes in gold, silver, and jewels—are on view in another wing. The fresco-bedecked chapel remains open for daily prayers. Behind the hospice is Chenil au Col du Grand St-Bernard, a kennel full of the landmark's enormous, furry namesakes: the famous St. Bernard dogs who for centuries helped the monks find travelers lost in the snow. They supposedly came to Switzerland with silk caravans from central Asia and were used by Romans as war dogs; today they're kept more for sentimental than functional reasons. The foundation is named after the most famous St. Bernard of them all: Barry, who saved more than 40 people in the 19th century and today stands stuffed in Bern's Naturhistorisches Museum (Museum of Natural History). Souvenir stands sell plush versions of St. Bernards, and there are a handful of dining options on either side of the pass.

Updated: 10-08-2012

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