The Tschingelhörner and St. Martinshole, winter 2018. Photo: S. Gijsen

The First Skyscrapers

Swiss cathedrals in Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich, Basel, Sion or Chur (one of the oldest dioceses north of the Alps) show heigh towers, but mountains are the real skyscrapers of the country.

Millions of years ago, the collisions of slabs of Africa and Europe resulted in the formation of the Alps.

In the Tectonic Arena Sardona, in the canton of Glarus, St. Gall and Graubünden, one can see the result of this process and the formation of mountains.

Just below the ridge of the Tschingelhörner, at an altitude of 2,600 metres, opens the famous Martinsloch. This almost triangular opening, with a diameter of about 18 metres, was formed by the accelerated erosion of a more fragile part of the rock.

Twice a year, the rising sun shines through the hole and illuminates the church tower of the village of Elm for 2 minutes. It then disappears behind the rock face before rising above the ridge some 15 minutes later.

Another mysterious feature of the Tschingelhörner and the surrounding peaks is a greyish yellow line, sandwiched between two layers of Alpine rock.

This line provided a key to understanding the tectonic processes that led to the Alps. In 2008 UNESCO recognised these mountains as world heritage sites (source: