St. Bernard of Menthon (923-1008) was a nobleman who decided to devote his life to the Church. He joined the Benedictine order and worked among the people of the Alps. He is the patron of mountaineers and skiers.
For the French and German faithful, traveling to Rome in the winter could be treacherous. It meant crossing a dangerous pass through the mountains in Switzerland where snow could reach seven to eight feet deep, and drifts five times higher. Even in good weather, travelers contended with robbers, rough mountainous terrain, and avalanches.
In 962, St Bernard founded a hospice and monastery at the high point of the pass which later came to bear his name, St. Bernard’s Pass.
During winter storms, the monks used herding dogs to search out travelers caught in the snow. By 1750, the dogs were know as St. Bernards, a name officially established in the 1800’s.