Saturday, December 17, 2011

St Gotthard Pass

While doing some research recently for my grad seminar at Berkeley I was looking at a biography of the 10th c. German bishop St Gotthard (Vita S. Godehardi). This put me in mind of crossing the St Gotthard Pass in Switzerland, which is approached by an awfully high bridge. The latest of several versions was built in 1977 and looks like this:

 Source: Wikicommons

The modern bridge was built over the gorge in the same spot as its 12th c. counterpart, and I was wondering how on earth medieval travellers managed to span the roaring waters in the gorge below.

The answer is shown by the German painter Carl Blechen, who shows how the bridge of 1833 was simply built on top of its medieval predecessor:

Building the St. Gotthard Teufelsbrücke, Carl Blechen, ca 1833

Then apparently the medieval version was simply removed, and the new one after time became the base for ever higher constructions moving up the sides of the gorge.

German Wiki, artist's name not given

I still have no idea why this mountain pass leading from Switzerland to Italy is named after St Gotthard; apparently there was a hospice on top run by some monks who perhaps were devoted to this bishop from far-off Hildesheim in Germany.


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