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Coordinates: 45 ° 48 ′ 24 ″  N , 7 ° 49 ′ 26 ″  E

Historical view of Gressoney with Monte Rosa in the background
Landscape in the middle Lystal near Bielen
Castello di Savoia, summer residence built by Queen Margaret of Italy in Gressoney-St-Jean

Gressoney (Walser German Greschonei [greʃɔˈnɛɪ] , in German sporadically in the Germanized form Kressenau ) is a valley south of the Monte Rosa massif in the Italian region of Aosta Valley . It consists of two communities, Gressoney-La-Trinité (Walser German upper part with the center en de Tache, 1624  m above sea level ) and Gressoney-Saint-Jean (Walser German Mettelteil with the center Platz or Zer Chilchu, 1385  m above sea level . , or [lower part of municipality] Under section ), where La Trinite is located above the valley village and Saint-Jean , the larger of the two.


Outside the municipality, further down the valley in the southward running Val de Gressoney , there are the villages of Gaby (Walser German Goabi ) and Issime (Walser German Eischeme ). The valley is traversed by the Lys (Walser German Liisu / Leisu ), which rises from the Lys glacier not far from the border between Italy and Switzerland and flows into the Dora Baltea / Doire Baltée at Pont-Saint-Martin .


The Walser village

The upper valley of the Lys and thus the Gressoney area was settled by German-speaking Walsers from the Swiss town of Zermatt over the Theodul Pass and through the uppermost Val d'Ayas .

Since the Middle Ages , the Gressoney men were known as shopkeepers and peddlers who visited the markets and fairs in Switzerland and Germany during the summer . As a result, the connection with the German-speaking area could also be maintained during the so-called Little Ice Age , when the ice-free Theodul Pass was covered by glaciers in the Middle Ages.

Between 1939 and 1946, the two communities Gressoney-La-Trinité and Gressoney-Saint-Jean formed a single community named Gressonei , as they did before 1767 . The two districts had the Italianized names Gressonei La Trinità and Gressonei San Giovanni .

Origin of the place name

It is not known for sure where the name Gressoney comes from. The earliest records are: 1211 in loco Grassoneti, 1308 in valle gressoneti, 1310 iurisdictionem Vallesiae Grassoneti, 1418 iuris dictionem Grassoneti, 1436 homines De gressonei . The name is thus pre-German, probably a collective on -ētum .

Other interpretations are unfounded. An old, fanciful explanation is the Gresson egg, that is, the egg of a bird that is to be called Gresson. Another attempt at etymologizing is that Gressoney is supposed to be the romanization of a German Kressen-Au . Conversely, they wanted to give the two communities the German name “Kressenau”, but the inhabitants of the places in question never used this fancy name themselves, and it never caught on north of the Alps either.

Speech situation

Gressoney is a traditional German-speaking community. Part of the population (in the older generation the far greater part) still speaks Greschuneititsch, the local Walser German , a highly Alemannic German dialect. Today, however, Italian is dominant .

The Italianisation has only with the advent of winter tourism increased dramatically and particularly since the 1960s. Today's language situation is characterized by a strong bilingual or multilingualism with an increasing dominance of Italian. According to a survey carried out by Anna Giacalone Ramat in 1976/77, of the residents of Gressoney who were born before 1923, 76.1% spoke Gressoney German, of those born between 1923 and 1952, 55.9% and of those who who were born after 1952, still 37.5%. In 1992, according to a survey by Peter Zürrer, 14.6% of 6–11 year old schoolchildren spoke “good” or “a little” in German. In 2009 only very few children still speak the Walser German dialect, most of them grow up monolingual Italian.

The languages ​​of instruction in the school are Italian and, due to the Autonomy Statute for the Aosta Valley, also French. In the private sector, however, French is not present in Gressoney. Since the 1980s there have been lessons in Walser German for one hour a week. In the 2008/2009 school year, (Standard) German was introduced for the first time at the schools in Gressoney and the neighboring Issime, for which two German teachers were hired. One of the teachers who works in elementary school and kindergarten also speaks the Titsch von Gressoney. German is now a compulsory subject, but no longer a language of instruction.

In Issime (in the local dialect Eischeme ), a community further down in the Lystal, z. Sometimes a dialect of Walser German is also spoken, whereby the Gressoney and Issim dialects differ so much that they are considered incomprehensible by the population of the other village.


year 1861 1871 1881 1901 1911 1921 1931 1936 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001
Residents of La-Trinité 224 222 214 167 168 158 164 192 188 198 239 275 285 297
Resident of St-Jean 882 873 909 949 1003 1010 725 730 732 742 727 733 763 789

Stone extraction

Serpentinite breccia from Gressoney
Modern architecture based on traditional stone processing

In Val di Gressoney is a long-time natural stone mined. In the 20th century, the focus was on green serpentinite varieties that are sold worldwide. These are breccia-like occurrences, which, due to their structure, create an attractive, lively picture in the deep green rock. The dismantling takes place exclusively with the wire saw .


  • Karin Heller, Luis Thomas Prader and Christian Prezzi (eds.): Lebendige Sprachinseln. 2nd edition, Bozen 2006. Online to Gressoney.

Bibliography on the dialect

  • Peter Zürrer : Words in the Gressoney dialect. A contribution to the knowledge of the northern Italian Walser dialects . Frauenfeld 1975 (contributions to Swiss German dialect research 21).
  • Peter Zürrer: Dictionary of the dialect of Gressoney. With an introduction to the language situation and a grammatical outline . Frauenfeld 1982 (contributions to Swiss German dialect research 24).
  • Peter Zürrer: German dialect in a multilingual community. The language island situation of Gressoney (Valle d'Aosta, Italy) . Wiesbaden / Stuttgart 1986 (ZDL supplements 53).
  • Peter Zürrer: Language island dialects. Walser German in the Aosta Valley . Aarau 1999 (Sprachlandschaften 23 series; deals with the dialects of Gressoney and Issime).
  • Centro Studi e Cultura Walser / Walser cultural center: Greschòneytitsch. Vocabolario Italiano - Titsch . Gressoney St-Jean 1988.
  • Centro Studi e Cultura Walser / Walser cultural center: Greschòneytitsch. Vocabolario Titsch Deutsch - Italiano . Gressoney St-Jean 1998.

On the history of Gressoney

  • Valentin Curta: Gressoney then and now. From old chronicles and traditions . Ed .: Centro Studi e Cultura Walser / Walser Kulturzentrum. 2nd Edition. Milan 1994.
  • Lino Guindani: Greetings from Gressoney. Dai pionieri della fotografia alle cartoline d'epoca . Curta-Guindani Collezione. 2nd Edition. Gressoney 2010.
  • Interreg IIIB "Walser Alps" (Ed.): Walserhous. L'architettura storica nell'alta valle del Lys . Quart 2001.
  • Eugenio Squindo, Valeria Cyprian: Gressoney-Saint-Jean. Upper part - Mettel part . Saint Christophe 2010.

Web links

Commons : Gressoney  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Linguistic Atlas of German Switzerland , Vol. V 1b.
  2. Example: The Alps, June 2011, page 29 ( Memento of the original from September 29, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. Everything according to Paul Zinsli : Südwalser Namenbuch. The German place and field names of the Ennetbirgischen Walser settlements in Bosco-Gurin and in Piemont, Bern 1984, p. 421 and 499 f.
  4. ^ Peter Zürrer: Dictionary of the dialect of Gressoney. With an introduction to the language situation and a grammatical outline. Frauenfeld 1982 (contributions to Swiss-German grammar XXIV); here about grammar on pp. 59–97.
  5. See the article Greschoneititsch in the Alemannic Wikipedia.
  6. For details on the language situation, see Peter Zürrer: Dictionary of the dialect of Gressoney. With an introduction to the language situation and a grammatical outline. Frauenfeld 1982 (Contributions to Swiss German Grammar XXIV), pp. 25–58.
  7. ^ Anna Ramat Giacalone: Lingua, Dialetto e Comportamento Linguistico; La Situazione Di Gressoney . Tipo-Offset Musumeci, Aosta 1979.
  8. ^ Peter Zürrer: Language island dialects. Walser German in the Aosta Valley. Aarau 1999 (Sprachlandschaften 23 series).
  9. Nicola Vicquery: Oberes Lystal - a Walser community in a rapid language change. In: Walser language. Progetto Interreg III B. 2nd study meeting in Brig, 9. – 10. June 2006. pp. 125-135. ( Memento from September 12, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 1.6 MB) p. 131.
  10. Isabel Zollna: The German in language contact - French and Provencal / German. In: Werner Besch, Oskar Reichmann, Stefan Sonderegger: Language history: a manual for the history of the German language. Pp. 3192-3202. Aosta Valley, p. 3196.
  11. Nicola Vicquery (16 October 2009): Gressoney and Issime. Annual report (September 2008 - September 2009). Activities to maintain or promote the language. Walser regions - Aosta