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Andermatt Swiss Alps

The Saint Gotthard Museum and the Gotthard Pass

What links the Swiss village of Andermatt to the patron saint of traveling merchants?

The answer is the Gotthard Pass – the high mountain pass that crosses the Alps from Andermatt, and which is dedicated to Saint Gotthard.

Gotthard Pass image via Flickr by Andrew and Annemarie

It’s a crucial route that connects the German-speaking canton of Uri (where Andermatt is located) with the southern, Italian-speaking region of Ticino.  Since the first hardy travellers crossed the mountains here in Roman times, the Gotthard Pass has been a vital trade and traffic connection. Its history is the story not only of Switzerland, but of the whole of Europe.

Maintaining the pass through often-perilous conditions has been the work of thousands of brave souls over many centuries. Their heroic actions are commemorated at the National Saint Gotthard Museum – sat right at the summit of the pass, 2,100m above sea level.

The building that houses the museum dates back to 1834. Where it once held a customs house and provided shelter to travellers, now you’ll find exhibits that tell the story of those who travelled through here, those who sheltered them and saved their lives despite perilous conditions, and even those who did battle here. The arrival of the railway in 1882 via a 15km tunnel was an engineering triumph that drastically sped up cross-continental journey times – but at the cost of 200 workers’ lives. They, too, are commemorated here. It was only in 1980 that a road was finally built, providing easy access direct from Andermatt.

Gotthard Pass - image via Flickr by warrenski Gotthard Pass (2) image via Flickr via warrenski

Understanding the history of the Gotthard Pass is crucial to understanding just why this part of Switzerland is on the map in more ways than one. There’s no better place to start than at the Saint Gotthard Museum.

The Gotthard Pass and Museum are open during the summer season from June – October, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m weather permitting.

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