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 and 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
Lucerne, Basel, and Zurich. The
Gotthard Pass lies at the hearth of
the Gotthard, an important north-south axis in Europe, and is it
crossed by three major traffic tunnels, each being the world's longest
at the time of their construction: the
Gotthard Rail Tunnel
Gotthard Rail Tunnel (1882),
Gotthard Road Tunnel
Gotthard Road Tunnel (1980) and the
Gotthard Base Tunnel
Gotthard Base Tunnel (2016).
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 Gotthard becoming the nucleus of the Swiss
Confederacy in the early 14th century.
3 Roads and tunnels
5 In popular culture
6 See also
9 External links
Lago della Piazza and Hospice area
Gotthard Pass lies on the main watershed of the Gotthard massif, a
massif lying at the heart of the Swiss Alps, between the cantons of
Grisons and Uri. The pass itself is the lowest point
between the summits of
Pizzo Lucendro (west) and Pizzo Centrale
(east). It connects the cantons of Uri (north) and
Ticino (south), its
summit (2,106 metres (6,909 ft), indicated by a road sign) being
located in the latter canton, about 2 km south of the border with
Uri. The valleys connected by the pass are that of the river Reuss,
named the Urseren, and that of the river Ticino, named Valle
Leventina. The Gotthard axis is the most important route between
Switzerland as well as most of the northern part of the
country and the southern region of Ticino. It is the most direct link
Lugano and also between some regions of northern
Italy (Rotterdam-Basel-Genoa axis).
The nearest towns are
Hospental (7 km north) near
Airolo (4 km south), respectively in the valleys of
Leventina. The region of
Andermatt lies at the foot of the Furka and
Oberalp Passes connecting the
Rhine Valleys thus making the
Gotthard area a strategic place for transports and military (the Swiss
Réduit for instance).
Just southeast of the culminating point of the Gotthard Pass, at an
elevation of about 2,090 metres above sea level, are several lakes.
The largest is named Lago della Piazza and has a surface of 3.94
hectares. South of Lago della Piazza are the Hospice (Italian:
Ospizio) and National Museum, as well as a hotel and restaurants.
Another official road sign displaying an elevation of 2,091 metres
(6,860 ft) lies there.
A few kilometres away and slightly above the
Gotthard Pass are found
two large dams and artificial lakes:
Lago di Lucendro
Lago di Lucendro at the foot of
Pizzo Lucendro and
Lago della Sella
Lago della Sella at the foot of Pizzo Centrale.
They are respectively part of the Reuss and
Ticino basin, although
both are located within the canton of Ticino.
Further information: Schöllenen_Gorge § History
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
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.
Gotthard Pass was formerly known as Monte Tremolo (its southern
slope is still known as Val Tremola).
A chapel dedicated to
Saint Gotthard of Hildesheim
Saint Gotthard of Hildesheim (died in 1038,
canonized 1113), 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 in 1230. 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
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
resulting ultimately in the Swiss conquest of the territory of the
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.
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
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
The new Gotthard road was built in 1830, wide enough
to allow (single-lane) motorized traffic. With the Gotthard Road
Tunnel (opened in 1980) the pass itself was again reduced to limited
importance for traffic.
Crossing the Gotthard
The modern concrete span of the third Devil's Bridge (Teufelsbrücke,
built 1958) showing an older bridge (built 1830) below.
Gotthard Post near the summit
Old road: summit of the Gotthard
Roads and tunnels
The National Road 2 descending to Airolo.
In addition to the National Road 2, crossing the pass and connecting
Göschenen with Airolo, several tunnels provide access through the
massif. The first one, the 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) Gotthard Rail
Tunnel, opened in 1882 for railway traffic at a cost of around 200
workers' lives (there is uncertainty as to the exact toll). The
second one, the 17 kilometres (11 mi)
Gotthard Road Tunnel
Gotthard Road Tunnel (a
motorway tunnel), opened in 1980. It was closed for two months in 2001
following a fatal fire. Both railway and motorway tunnels have portals
Göschenen and Airolo, at around 1,150 metres above sea level, and
are close to each other. Either rail and road traffics through these
tunnels are sometimes shut down during harsh weather conditions,
particularly in winter.
The last tunnel, the 57 kilometres (35 mi) Gotthard Base Tunnel
(a double-tube railway tunnel), opened in 2016. At around 500 metres
above sea level, it provides for the first time a flat route through
the massif and the
Alps from the northern plains at
Erstfeld to the
southern plains at Bodio. It is the longest and deepest railway tunnel
in the world. This tunnel, combined with two shorter tunnels planned
Lugano as part of the
NRLA project, will reduce the 3
hour 40 min rail journey from
Milan by one hour, while
increasing the size and number of trains that can operate along the
route because the line is nearly level, compared with the spirals of
the older tunnel.
Transit across the Gotthard
World's longest tunnel until 1906, second highest conventional
railway in Switzerland
Pass (National Road 2)
Closed to motorized traffic in winter from 1980 onwards
Gotthard Road Tunnel
World's longest road tunnel until 2000, second highest motorway in
Switzerland, lowest direct north-south road through the Alps
Gotthard Base Tunnel
World's longest and deepest railway tunnel, first flat route through
A number of international artists have been inspired by the dramatic
scenery of the Gotthard Pass, the
Schöllenen Gorge and the
"The Gotthard Post" (oil on canvas by Rudolf Koller, 1874)
"Winterreise 1790 über den Gotthard" (colored engraving by Wilhelm
Rothe according drawing by Johann Gottfried Jentzsch, 1790)
"Construction of the Devil's Bridge" (oil on canvas by Carl Blechen,
"The Teufelsbrücke, St. Gotthard" (oil on canvas by
J.M.W. Turner c.
Alexander Suvorov Crossing St.
Gotthard Pass in 1799"
(by Alexander von Kotzebue)
In popular culture
Gotthard Pass is prominent in the historical manga series
List of highest paved roads in Europe
List of mountain passes
List of the highest Swiss passes
Nicola Pfund, Sui passi in bicicletta - Swiss Alpine passes by
bicycle, Fontana Edizioni, 2012, p. 78-87.
^ Bruno Meier, Von Morgarten bis Marignano (2015), p. 23.
^ Lauf-Belart, Gotthardpass (1924), 165f.
^ Hans-Peter Bärtschi: Gotthardbahn in German, French and Italian in
the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland, 2004-07-29.
^ Until the opening of the Simplon Tunnel
^ Until the opening of the Lærdal Tunnel
^ After the San Bernardino Tunnel
^ Rebecca Silverman (September 7, 2013). "
Wolfsmund GN 1". Anime News
Network. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gotthard pass.
Cycling Elevation profiles for both sides on the old road
Free Pictures St. Gotthard Pass
The Gotthard, Switzerland
Gotthard Pass (in English)