The Twentieth Century Society

War Memorials

Italy: Sacrario di Oslavia

Architect: Ghino Venturi
Location: Oslavia, Gorizia, Italy

This tough, castle-like ossuary contains the remains of 57,200 Italian soldiers, 36,440 of them unknown, many of whom were casualties of the 12th Battle of the Isonzo, i.e. Caporetto. There are also the bones of 539 Austro-Hungarian troops. These remains were largely taken from war cemeteries on the Bainsizza Plateau to the east. The monument, proposed in 1932 and completed in 1938, was designed by Ghino Venturi of Rome, who responded to the contemporary architectural mood by producing something “synthetic, rational, stripped of everything superfluous”. It consists of a fortress-like circular tower on a rugged plinth above a flight of steps, with three lower circular bastions flanking it on either side and behind and connected by underground passages. The names of the identified dead line the walls of the four internal circular chambers. In the central tower – originally open to the sky – is a tall black marble cross; below in the crypt is the tomb of General Achille Papa (killed on the Bainsizza on 5th October 1917) and of twelve other holders of the Medaglia d’Oro al Valor Militare. A bell in the detached campanile sounds at sunset. Ghino Venturi (1884-1970), architect & urban planner, was trained at the Rome Academy of Fine Arts. He was influenced by Marcello Piacentini, with whom he worked on exhibition halls in Rome (1911) and the Savoy cinema in Florence (1920-22). In 1923 he was a co-founder of the Fascist Union of Architects and was from 1928-31 part of national directorate; during 1930s designed several hospitals in Livorno and Pisa. His design for Oslavia, with a rectangular projection rising against curved walls of rubble stone, is vaguely reminiscent of Fritz Schumacher’s crematorium at Dresden of 1912.

Opposite the ossuary, axial with the grand staircase, is a memorial to fifty-five volunteers from Venezia Giulia who died on the battlefields of Medio and Alto Isonzo.

Gavin Stamp