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St. Bernards, like the one pictured here, have been saving lives in the Alps for hundreds of years.
G R A N D S T. B E R N A R D, Switzerland, Oct. 5, 2004 â€” The highest church in the world sits 8,000 feet up in the Alps on what was once the most dangerous mountain pass in Europe. Today, climbers and hikers come for the challenge, but for hundreds of years, the monastery of the Grand St. Bernard was a lifesaving refuge from the cold and snow for everyone from local hunters to Napoleon.
In the 1600s, the St. Bernard monks decided they needed help rescuing snowbound travelers. So they bred a burly but reliable dog, which they named after their patron saint.
"The St. Bernards were never just a symbol," said Father Hilaire, a monk in the Hospice of the Great St. Bernard. "Before the 1900s, there were no skis, so the dogs made paths even if there were one or two meters of fresh snow. They helped us save lives."
The St. Bernards have saved more than 2,000 lives since the monks started...