Julierpass. Photo/foto: TES.

The Rhaetian Alpine passes

The Rhaetian Alpine passes in Graubünden have always played an important role. Since the construction of tunnels (for example the Vereina tunnel) and the beginning of the railway- and automobile era, they have lost their former significance.

There are 33 passes in this area:

Albula, Aprica, Arlberg, Bernhardin, Bernina, Chaschauna, Crispalt/Oberalp, Flüela, Fraele, Fuorn/Ofen, Julier, Krüzli, Kunkels, Lembra/Kisten, Lenzerheide, Livigno, Lukmanier, Lunghin, Majola, Muretto, Reschen, Saint-Luzisteig, San Marco, Scaletta, Schlappin, Segnes, Septimer, Splügen, Strela, Valserberg, Umbrail, Veptga/Panixer and Wolfgang.

The Splügen Pass and the Septimer are mentioned in Roman literary and historical sources. The Bernhardin, Julier, Albula, Ofen, Reschen and other passes are mentioned in documents in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Carolingian monasteries (c. 770-c. 843) were founded much earlier. The best-preserved example is the Monastery St. John in Müstair, built by Charlemagne after his campaign against the Langobards in northern Italy around 774.

Hospices were simple inns. They are mentioned since the 11th century and were built and managed by the church institutions.

The significant growth of transport between southern Germany and Lombardy in the 14th century strengthened the role of these passes.

The traditional transport system (mule traffic) lasted until the beginning of the 19th century. Napoleon modernised the roads and passes and made them accessible for heavy (military) transport and coaches.

(Source: M. Bundi, Cr. Collenberg, Rätische Alpenpässe, Chur 2016).