Saints of the Day – Bernard of Montjoux (Menthon)

detail of a photo of a statue of Saint Bernard that stands at Little Saint Bernard Pass, an area of the Alps between France and Italy; taken on 19 July 2006 by Vberger; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Born probably in Italy, c.996; died at Novara, Lombardy, Italy, c.1081. Little is known for certain about Saint Bernard. He is said to have been ordained a priest, made vicar general of Aosta, and spent more than four decades conducting missionary work in the Alps, systematically visiting every mountain and valley.

He built schools and churches in the diocese but is especially remembered for two Alpine hospices he built to aid travellers lost in the mountain passes named Great and Little Bernard after him. He collected endowments for the rest houses and staffed them with men who in time became Augustinian canons regular and built a monastery. The order continued to serve travellers there into the 20th century. The Saint Bernard dog was especially breed to assist travellers in this mountainous region.

He is sometimes erroneously referred to as Bernard of Menthon and the son of Count Richard of Menthon, which he is not (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer).

In art, Saint Bernard is a black monk, or canon in an alb and almuce (fur cape), leading the devil by a chain. (He shouldn’t be confused with the white Bernard of Clairvaux, who sometimes also has the devil chained at his feet.) Sometimes his depiction may include (1) corn, vine, and lightning near him, or (2) him kneeling at a reading desk with a vision of God appearing outside the window (Roeder).

He was proclaimed the patron saint of Alpinists and mountain climbers by Pope Pius XI (himself a mountaineer) in 1923 (Delaney), who at time also severely criticized the fictions that have been incorporated into the written vita of the saint (Attwater). His is consider the protector of crops against storm (Roeder).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 17 June 2020. Web. 19 September 2021. <>