Simplon Hospice | Accidentally Wes Anderson

Simplon Hospice

Accidentally Wes Anderson - Simplon Hospice Enlarge

Valais, Switzerland | C.1831

Photo Credit: Gidi van Maarseveen

Nestled within the stunning snow-covered mountains of the Swiss Alps is the Simplon Hospice. Utilized as a traveler’s lodge that sits almost 2,000 meters above sea level, Napoleon Bonaparte ordered it built in 1801. Today it is run by the “Canons of St. Bernard” and still offers respite to around130 guests.

Napoleon Bonaparte had the first alpine pass route for travelers commissioned between 1800 to 1805. The project connected the French and Swiss Alps and was dubbed the Simplon Pass. At the time, this complicated roadwork employed more than 5,000 workers and was a technical masterpiece. In 1801 he ordered the construction of the hospice at the summit of the pass that could also be used as a barrack.

It wouldn’t be until 1813 that the foundation stones were laid, and a year later Napoleon was toppled from power. The management of the hospice was given over to the Augustine canons of the Great Saint Bernard hospice and the building was finally completed in 1831. The dwellings had accommodations for over 300 guests and saw up to 12,000 guests per year.

In 1906, the Simplon Tunnel railway was completed. This line runs between Switzerland and Italy it and increased traffic to the Simplon area and the hospice. Today the 20 kilometers of track make it the longest railway tunnel in the world, and an engineering wonder for the time it was constructed.

Located in the mountains, the hospice is prone to avalanches. In the 1950s action was taken to make the pass safer to travel through in the winter months. Avalanche shelters were created that could hold full tour-sized buses. Despite the precautions, an avalanche destroyed a building connected to the hospice in 1971. It was later rebuilt in 1973 along with a church.

Renovations of the Simplon Hospice took place in 1995 in order to modernize the establishment. Today the Simplon Hospice is run by Prior Francois Lamon and three other Canons. It remains a meeting place for the Canons and can accommodate up to 130 guests. Activities at the hospice include retreats, school camps and educational courses, and guests wanting more thrills are kept entertained by hikes and ski tours in the Simplon area.

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