Monte San Giorgio

* This name is listed on the World Heritage List. ª The region is classified by UNESCO.

The Monte San Giorgio is a mountain in Ticino in Switzerland. It is 1,097 m above sea level. M. high and lies between the two southern arms of Lake Lugano. The Monte San Giorgio is the world's most important reference for marine fossils from the Middle Triassic ( 245-230 million years ago). In 2003, the area around Monte San Giorgio by the UNESCO declared World Heritage Site. 2010, the World Heritage Site has been extended to the southern part of Italy to be counted.

The pyramid-shaped mountain is heavily forested. The natural landscape provides many rare plants a home. In addition, there are various hidden in the mountain caves.


The mountain rests on a base crystalline basement of gneiss. Then there are layers of andesite ( rhyolite ) and tuff. This is followed by layers of sediment from the Triassic, including repeated dolomite and limestone and layers of bituminous shale. The strata dip to the south, so that the oldest rocks in the north lakefront outcrops.

A special feature is the enormous amount of well preserved fossils that have been found particularly in the 16-meter- thick boundary layer of bitumen. 200 million years ago the rocks of the Monte San Giorgio formed a around 100 meters deep marine basin in a subtropical region. The water must have been very low in oxygen at the bottom so that many vertebrate bodies were therein nor destroyed either by poachers from currents. The fossils were found at Monte San Giorgio, therefore are often completely preserved skeletons that are for research through its global uniqueness and quality of great importance.

Thus, today on the mountain fossils of fish, invertebrates such as insects and reptiles - including some with a length of up to six meters and several hundred copies of the ichthyosaur Mixosaurus - be found. The mountain, which has a worldwide unique five mineralized layers, one of the most important localities for middle Triassic.


In the 15th century the hermit Manfred von Riva lived on Monte San Giorgio.

In the first half of the 20th century, the bitumen layers ( oil shale) were mined industrially and oil or ointment ( " Saurolo " ), with pharmaceutical application processed. Marble was another important raw material, which was dismantled. Today only a marble quarry in the town of Arzo.

In 1924, the University of Zurich led under the direction of paleontologist Bernhard Peyer and from 1956 by Emil Kuhn -Schnyder through a series of scientific excavations. This encouraged more than 10,000 discoveries revealed and many new species have been discovered. Some of them have names with local relevance; such as Helveticosaurus (named after Helvetia ), Ticinosuchus (named after the Ticino) or Ceresiosaurus (named after the Ceresio, the Italian name of Lake Lugano ).

The world heritage has been extended in 2010 over the border to Italy.


The Monte San Giorgio is now a popular destination for cyclists and hikers. A nature trail leads visitors into the specifics of world heritage.

The majority of the finds is located in the Paleontological Museum in Zurich. A small selection of important discoveries and replica are in the fossil museum of Meride. The museum reined in October 2012 in a new building, designed by architect Mario Botta.

From the south via the Mendrisio area of Monte San Giorgio can be achieved on the road. Another road leads from Riva San Vitale along the lake until after Brusino Arsizio and on to Porto Ceresio in Italy. From Brusino there is a cable car to the observation deck of the Serpiano (650 m above sea level. M. ), where the road from Mendrisio ends. From here you have a very nice view over the branched Lake Lugano.