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St Gotthard Pass

ST GOTTHARD PASS, the principal route from northern Europe to Italy. It takes its name (it is not known wherefore) from St Gotthard, bishop of Hildesheim (d. 1038), but does not seem to be mentioned before the early 13th century, perhaps because the access to it lies through two very narrow Alpine valleys, much exposed to avalanches. The hospice on the summit is first mentioned in 1331, and from 1683 onwards was in charge of two Capuchin friars. But in 1775 the buildings near it were damaged by an avalanche, while in 1799-1800 everything was destroyed by the French soldiery. Rebuilt in 1834, the hospice was burnt in March 1905. The mule path (dating from about 1293) across the pass served for many centuries, for though Mr Greville, in 1775, succeeded in taking a light carriage across, the carriage-road was only constructed between 1820 and 1830. Now the pass is deserted in favour of the great tunnel (pierced in 1872-1880, 9! m. in length, and attaining a height of 3786 ft.), through which runs the railway (opened in 1882) from Lucerne to Milan (1755 m.), one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century. It runs mainly along the eastern shore of the Lake of Lucerne, from Lucerne to Fliielen (325 m.), and then up the Reuss valley past Altdorf and Wassen, near which is the first of the famous spiral tunnels, to Goeschenen (56 m. from Lucerne). Here the h'ne leaves the Reuss valley to pass through the tunnel and so gain, at Airolo, the valley of the Ticino or the Val Leventina, which it descends, through several spiral tunnels, till at Biasca (38 m. from Goeschenen) it reaches more level ground. Thence it runs past Bellinzona to Lugano (30! m. from Biasca) and reaches Italian territory at Chiasso, 35 m. from Milan. In 1909 the Swiss government exercised the right accorded to it by the agreement of 1879 of buying the St Gotthard Railway from the company which built it within thirty years of that date. (W. A. B.C.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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