The Twentieth Century Society

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War memorials

Italy: Redipuglia, Colle S. Elia

To the west of the Sacrario, across the road and railway, is the Colle S. Elia where the original war cemetery has been made into a Parco Della Rimembranza. Here are more memorials and, at the summit, the ancient Roman Colonna d’Aquileia reconstructed as a memorial. In The White War, Mark Thompson describes this cemetery at Redipuglia, as seen from its replacement: “Looking down from the terraces, you see a low green hill on the other side of the road to Trieste. At the end of the war, the regimental cemeteries on the Carso were emptied and the remains brought to that hill. The dead men’s families fashioned little monuments from battlefield detritus: a broken propeller blade for a pilot, crossed pickaxe and shovel for a sapper, or simply a battered helmet, with a nameplate on a plinth of boulders and prigs of wire like ivy. Infinitely sad and truthful, this cemetery expressed the native genius that nationalists had boasted about before the war (‘We are for the ephemeral… We hate methods, we are for disorder against discipline.’) Mussolini decided the Fascist myth about the Great War needed something more grandiose and streamlined, less ramshackle – and less honest. Redipuglia became the showpiece of Fascist commemorative architectonics, one of the few places where a visitor still feels the urgency of Walter Benjamin’s warning in 1940: ‘Even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins’.”

Gavin Stamp

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