Summit crosses are very common in the canton of Valais, which has a strong Catholic majority. There is hardly a peak or crag, even difficult to access, that does not have one. On September 9, a new cross was installed on the highest peak in Switzerland, Dufour Peak.
This highest summit in Switzerland, in the Monte Rosa massif, is 4634 meters above sea level. Although the peak is on Swiss territory, Italy is near by, a few hectometers away. Its name comes from General Guillaume Henri Dufour who served in the Napoleonic armies. He led the Swiss army during the Sonderbund War and was the co-founder of the Red Cross. He is also known as a cartographer and politician.
The first cross was erected in 1964 at the initiative of the Edelweiss group, “friends of the mountains,” a group of young Catholics belonging to the Alpine Club of Italy. Blessed by the Archbishop of Milan, it incorporated a small statue of the Virgin in the heart of the cross.
A Rejection of the Cross
In 2018, the cross was vandalized and thrown further down. Only a few pieces were found.
As reported by cath.ch, other summit crosses have been damaged in recent years: the one overlooking the Dent d'Hérens (4171m) was sawn off in 2017. A Freiburg climber boasted before the court of having damaged two summit crosses in 2009.
And since 2010, the Swiss Association of Free Thinkers has called for the crosses to be removed from mountain tops and no new ones to be erected.
The author of these lines was able to observe this destructive vandalism of crosses in Valais, for example at Pra Bé, where the wooden cross had been sawn at the base and taken away.
But a Catholic immediately grasps the reasons for this gesture: it is to magnify the Cross of Christ by raising it on these heights, and it is to call down its blessings on the whole country over which it dominates.
A New Cross
So, on September 9, 2020, a new cross was erected on Dufour Peak. 1.6 m high and made of light steel, it weighs 70 kg. It was again the Edelweiss group that had it built. It was blessed on August 1 and a small statue of the Blessed Virgin was placed at its center.
A helicopter took the cross to the top—the first one had been brought up on a man’s back. And mountaineers from the two interested countries got together to put it in place.
And so, once again, the cross extends its arms over Switzerland and Italy from this summit.