Bernard Of Menthon

, a monk in the tenth century, who was born in the year 923, in the neighbourhood of Annecy, of one of the most illustrious houses of Savoy, rendered himself not more celebrated in the annals of religion than of benevolence, by two hospitable establishments which he formed, and where, for nine hundred years, travellers have found relief from the dangers of passing the Alps in the severe part of the season. Bernard, influenced by pious motives and a love of study, refused in his early years a proposal of marriage to which his parents attached great importance, and embraced the ecclesiastical life. He afterwards was promoted to be archdeacon of Aoste, which includes the places of official and grand-vicar, and consequently gave him considerable weight in the government of the diocese. This he employed in the laudable purposes of converting the wretched inhabitants of the neighbouring mountains, who were idolaters, and made very great progress in ameliorating their manners, as well as religious opinions. Affected at the same time with the dangers and hardships sustained by the French and German pilgrims in travelling to Rome, he resolved to build on the summit of the Alps two hospitia, or hotels, for their reception, one on mount Joux (mons Jcrffis, so called from a temple of Jupiter erected there), and the other, the colonnade of Jove, so called from a colonnade or series of upright stones placed on the snow to point out a safe track. These places of reception were afterwards called, and are still known by the names of the Great and Little St. Bernard. The care of them the founder entrusted to regular canons of the order of St. Augustin, who have continued without interruption to our days, each succession of monks during this long period, zealously performing the duties of hospitality according to the benevolent intentions of St. Bernard. The situation is the most inhospitable by nature that can be conceived even in spring, the cold is extreme; and the whole is covered with snow or ice, whose appearances are varied only by storms and clouds. Their principal monastery on Great St. Bernard, is probably the highest habitation in Europe, being two thousand five | hundred toises above the sea. Morning and evening their dogs, trained for the purpose, trace out the weary and perishing traveller, and by their means, many lives are saved, the utmost care being taken to recover them, even when- recovery seems most improbable. After thus establishing these hospitia, Bernard returned to his itinerant labours among the neighbouring countries until his death in May 28, 1008. The Bollandists have published, with notes, two authentic lives of St. Bernard de Menthon, one written by Richard, his successor in the archdeaconry of Aoste y by which it appears that he was neither a Cistertian, nor of the regular canons, as some writers have asserted. The two hospitals possessed considerable property in Savoy, of which they were deprived afterwards, but the establishment still subsists, and the kind and charitable duties of it have lately been performed by secular priests. 1


Biog. Universelle.—Dict. Hist.