The Gotthard Pass or St. Gotthard Pass (Italian: Passo del San Gottardo; German: Gotthardpass) at 2,106 m (6,909 ft) is a mountain pass in the Alps traversing the Saint-Gotthard Massif and connecting northern Switzerland with southern Switzerland. The pass lies between Airolo in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, and Andermatt in the German-speaking canton of Uri, and connects further Bellinzona and Lugano to Lucerne, Basel, and Zurich. The Gotthard Pass lies at the heart of the Gotthard, a major transport axis of Europe, and it is crossed by three traffic tunnels, each being the world's longest at the time of their construction: the Gotthard Rail Tunnel (1882), the Gotthard Road Tunnel (1980) and the Gotthard Base Tunnel (2016). With the Lötschberg to the west, the Gotthard is one of the two main north-south routes through the Swiss Alps.

Since the Middle Ages, transit across the Gotthard played an important role in ...Read more

The Gotthard Pass or St. Gotthard Pass (Italian: Passo del San Gottardo; German: Gotthardpass) at 2,106 m (6,909 ft) is a mountain pass in the Alps traversing the Saint-Gotthard Massif and connecting northern Switzerland with southern Switzerland. The pass lies between Airolo in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, and Andermatt in the German-speaking canton of Uri, and connects further Bellinzona and Lugano to Lucerne, Basel, and Zurich. The Gotthard Pass lies at the heart of the Gotthard, a major transport axis of Europe, and it is crossed by three traffic tunnels, each being the world's longest at the time of their construction: the Gotthard Rail Tunnel (1882), the Gotthard Road Tunnel (1980) and the Gotthard Base Tunnel (2016). With the Lötschberg to the west, the Gotthard is one of the two main north-south routes through the Swiss Alps.

Since the Middle Ages, transit across the Gotthard played an important role in Swiss history, the region north of the Gotthard becoming the nucleus of the Swiss Confederacy in the 13th century, after the pass became a vital trade route between Northern and Southern Europe. The Gotthard is sometimes referred to as the "King of Mountain Passes" because of its central and strategic location.

 Muleteers at the Gotthard

Though the pass was locally known in antiquity, it was not generally used until the early 13th century because travel involved fording the turbulent Reuss, swollen with snowmelt during the early summer, in the narrow steep-sided Schöllenen Gorge, below Andermatt.

The first wooden bridge across Schöllenen Gorge was built around 1220, and in the following years the pass rapidly gained in importance.

The bridge permitted traffic to follow the Reuss to its headwaters and over the saddle at the top—a continental divide between the Rhine, which flows into the North Sea, and the river Ticino towards Milan, which after leaving Switzerland flows into the Po and ultimately into the Adriatic Sea.

The Gotthard Pass was formerly known as Monte Tremolo (its southern slope is still known as Val Tremola).[citation needed]

A chapel dedicated to Saint Gotthard of Hildesheim (died in 1038, canonized 1131), who was considered the patron saint of mountain passes, was built on the southern slope of the pass and consecrated by the archbishop of Milan, Enrico da Settala, in 1230.[1] The pass soon became known after the saint, by as early as 1236.

The opening of the Schöllenen Gorge for traffic was an important factor in the original Swiss Confederacy. The three regions of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden (the Waldstätten or "forest communities") gained imperial immediacy under the Hohenstaufen emperors still in the first half of the 13th century. An important aspect of the early confederacy, expressed in the Pfaffenbrief of 1370, was the guarantee of peace along the road from Zürich to the Gotthard Pass.

The Swiss also had an interest in extending their influence south of the Alps to secure the trade route across the pass to Milan. Beginning in 1331, they initially exerted their influence through peaceful trade agreements, but in the 15th century, their involvement turned military. 1403 the upper Leventina, as the valley south of the pass is called, became a protectorate of Uri. Throughout the 15th century, a changeful struggle between the Swiss and the Duchy of Milan ensued, resulting ultimately in the Swiss conquest of the territory of the Ticino.

 Aerial view by Walter Mittelholzer (1931)

The "Devil's Bridge" (Teufelsbrücke) legend associated with the crossing of the Schöllenen Gorge is not medieval; it may date to the 16th century (attestation of the name Teiffels Brucken in 1587) but more likely formed in the 17th century, and is first recorded in the early 18th century, by Johann Jakob Scheuchzer.[2]

A new road, including a tunnel with a length of c. 60 m, was built in 1707/8. The tunnel, known as Urnerloch, was the first road tunnel to be built in the Alps. It was constructed by Pietro Morettini (1660–1737).

The path across Schöllenen Gorge, and thus across the pass, still carried only foot traffic and pack animals until 1775,[citation needed] when the first carriage made the journey on an improved road.[citation needed]

The Battle of Gotthard Pass took place on 24 September 1799.

The new Gotthard road was built in 1830,[citation needed] wide enough to allow (single-lane) motorized traffic. It is said[by whom?] that the first car traversed the pass in 1895. The first reported[where?] surmounting of the pass in 1901 still took more than a day.

With the Gotthard Road Tunnel (opened in 1980) the pass itself was again reduced to limited importance for traffic.

^ Bruno Meier, Von Morgarten bis Marignano (2015), p. 23. ^ Lauf-Belart, Gotthardpass (1924), 165f.
Photographies by:
Lutz Fischer-Lamprecht - CC BY-SA 4.0
Prissantenbär - CC BY-SA 3.0
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