The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Click to see full size Photo © John East
Interior; Photo © John East
Interior; Photo © John East
Photo © Gavin Stamp
Photo © Gavin Stamp

War memorials

Italy: Montello, Sacrario Militare

Architect: Felice Nori
Location: Montello, Italy

Sited on a hill on the long forested Montello ridge, which saw fierce fighting during the Battle of the Solstice in June 1918, this ossuary contains the remains of 9,325 men, 3,226 of them unidentified, which were taken from 120 nearby cemeteries containing casualties from the bloody battles along the Piave from November 1917 to November 1918. The design of this dominating structure is curious. A tall squat square tower, with tapering sides, each with a central concave recession, rises above a low Classical base. Continuous bands of masonry run across primitive cylindrical columns (reminiscent of the Buddhist railing motif on the dome of Viceroy’s House in New Delhi, or a grain silo?) and above the gaunt entrance at the top of a flight of stairs the cylindrical columns – ornamented with fasces – support a low pediment. It has something of the character of the tough, sculptural Neo-Classicism of Ledoux. Inside, there are internal galleries lined with names and a dramatic central staircase rises to the Chapel and to the observation balconies opening off the tower. This central space was originally open to the sky. Designed in 1931 and completed in 1935, the monument was designed by Felice Nori of Rome, who had worked with Limongelli in Tripoli in 1929.

A few kilometres to the west, hidden on a forested hillside, is the Monumento All’Eroe Francesco Baracca, a small circular domed Doric temple commemorating Italy’s highest-scoring fighter ‘ace’ – 34 victories – who was killed by ground fire at Montello in June 1918 while strafing Austrian ground forces.

Gavin Stamp

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