The St. Bernard, famed for tales of heroic mountain rescue, will bring the Swiss capital of Bern into the limelight. Sculptures of the dog will decorate the city next year.
Bern’s official symbol is actually the bear. But in summer 2017 the city will welcome over 100 St. Bernard sculptures to its streets – an art project designed to attract more tourists. These 1.25 meter tall “BernARTiner” dogs are put out undecorated, and can be bought by companies or private buyers for 3000 francs (around 2730 euros) to paint themselves or have painted by an artist. The concept isn’t new; in 1986 Zurich placed painted lion sculptures throughout the city, followed by 800 fiberglass cows in 1998. The city officials of Bern chose the St. Bernard this time because of its status as the national dog of Switzerland.
In the 11th century, monks founded a hospital for travelers and pilgrims on the Great St. Bernard Pass, 2469 meters above sea level. Mountain dogs were kept there since the mid 17th century. Used as guards and protectors, they now have a legendary reputation as brave rescue dogs, always with a small cask of brandy round their necks. In 1887, the St. Bernard was officially recognized as a Swiss breed and has since served as the national dog.