The war memorials
The four war memorials are structures that gather together the fallen (known and unknown) of the Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies: they are symbols of our freedom and repositories of remembrance and are also a warning not to repeat useless and inhuman barbarity of this kind.
Pasubio War Memorial
“Under the watchful eye of Pasubio, the unconquered guardians sleep in peace in the shadow of the Cross”
The Monte Pasubio War Memorial stands on the promontory of the Colle di Bellavista in the municipality of Valli del Pasubio near the Pian delle Fugazze pass in the Province of Trento, from which there is a wonderful view over the surrounding landscape.
The works on the ossuary, on the initiative of the 3 November 1918 Friends of the Fighters of the 1st Army, started in 1920 to contain the remains of the Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers who fell in the Monte Pasubio area during the war. It was inaugurated on 29 August 1926. Inside are the bodies of 1,558 identified solders, 3,400 unknown Italian and 60 unknown Austro-Hungarian soldiers.
The monument rises on a rocky spur overlooking the Leogra valley and blends in well with the mountain landscape. It is a graceful square-shaped building in rationalist style designed by the architect Ferruccio Chemello and decorated by Tito Chini and Umberto Bellotto.
The slender 35-metre high tower is a truncated pyramid that rests on a broad plinth; there is a luminous lantern in the form of a cross at the top that makes it a veritable beacon that can be seen from a distance.
It is made up of two parts: the ossuary and the chapel.
The ossuary, positioned in the plinth of the tower, consists of a central crypt and two concentric galleries. The remains of 70 soldiers decorated for military valour are laid in the crypt, where is buried General Guglielmo Pecori Giraldi, who was in command of the 1st Army from 9 May 1916. The remains of known and unknown soldiers are laid in the gallery around the crypt.
The entrance to the chapel is on the opposite side of the monument, towards the south. It contains a statue of the Immaculate Virgin and artistic stained glass windows and frescoes depicting the images of holy warriors. Steps from the chapel lead to the upper floor where there is a splendid view of the mountains all round the tower.
Cimone War Memorial
“Buried by enemy mine, here sleep a thousand sons of Italy”
The Monte Cimone War Memorial stands on the summit of the mountain at 1,226 metres above sea level north of the municipality of Tonezza del Cimone. There is a stupendous view of the neighbouring valley from the monument.
This peak was long contested during the war because it was a precious observation post over the valley of the Astico and at the same time a formidable bulwark wedged among the Italian emplacements: indeed, Austrian war historians called it the “Gibraltar” of the Allied front.
The monument was built to a design by Ing. Thom Cevese with the aim of giving a fitting burial place to the troops of the 1st Battalion of the 219th Sele Infantry Brigade who died on 23 September 1916 when an Austro-Hungarian mine exploded on the summit of Monte Cimone. It was inaugurated in the presence of Crown Prince Umberto I di Savoia on 28 September 1929 on the southern edge of the mine crater, in which the unidentified remains of 1,210 men gathered from the battlefield were interred.
A flight of steps rises from the clearing in front of the crater to the memorial, composed of a square-shaped chapel open on all sides. A stone taken from the explosion has been placed as an altar that protects and guards the remains of the soldiers. A square pedestal supports the sharply tapering spire surmounted by an iron cross.
Two plaques at the side of the clearing mark the place where the first graves in the cemetery were dug, where another plaque on the path that leads from the car park to the ossuary commemorates the Carinthian fusiliers who lost their lives in the frequent battles on this part of the plateau.
An interesting point to note is that the Cimone War Memorial is the only one from which the other three Vicenza memorials can be seen.
Asiago War Memorial
“Here they shall not pass”
At the end of May 1916, the town of Asiago was invested by the advancing Austro-Hungarians, was seriously damaged, occupied and badly sacked. It was rebuilt at the end of the war and, during the Fascist regime, was chosen to accommodate one of the biggest Italian Great War memorials.
The Asiago War Memorial stands on the hill of Leiten at an altitude of 1,058 metres. It was designed by the Venetian architect Orfeo Rosato and holds works by sculptors Montini and Zanetti.
It was inaugurated by King Vittorio Emanuele III himself on 17 July 1938; all the Italian corpses from the many war cemeteries scattered about the plateau had been transferred to its interior, while some Austro-Hungarian soldiers’ bodies were moved to the ossuary at approximately the end of the 1960s.
Almost 60,000 soldiers rest inside the memorial, 33,000 of whom unknown.
A trilingual plaque was recently placed at the entrance (Hebrew, Italian and German) with a Star of David that reminds us that there were also soldiers of Jewish origin among the fallen.
The chapel is composed of two main parts: in the lower part, a crypt has been inserted in an 80-metre sided square base with the niches of the fallen disposed along the walls of the axial galleries; there is an octagonal votive chapel in the centre in whose walls are placed the remains of 12 fallen who were decorated with the gold medal for military valour.
The upper part of the crypt consists of a large terrace with a view of the vast, charming Asiago Plateau. Access is by a great 35-metre wide stairway over which rises a grandiose four-faced Roman-style triumphal arch 47 metres high with a votive area in the centre. Arrows are placed on the parapets pointing to the localities in which the most important and tragic battles and encounters of the Great War took place.
Cima Grappa War Memorial
“Monte Grappa you are my Homeland”
The Cima Grappa War Memorial is a monumental edifice that stands on the summit of the massif at 1,776 metres above sea level. Built in 1935 to a design by architect Giovanni Greppi with sculptor Giannino Castiglioni collaborating, the entire linear, geometric monument rests imposingly on the rugged surface of the mountain top.
The memorial soars above Piazzale Cadorna; here we can observe a broad staircase from the sides of which rise five semi-circular levels; the staircase narrows with each level, to the summit, where there is a chapel and the shrine of the Madonnina del Grappa.
The remains of 12,600 Italian soldiers rest in the interior, while on the opposite side there is an Austro-Hungarian ossuary with the remains of 10,200 soldiers. These remains were scattered in different areas of the massif until they were gathered together in a single place.
The two monuments are joined by a white ashlar masonry walk, the Via Eroica, which runs for about 250 metres to Portale Roma between two rows of memorial stones on which the names of the localities in which the most important battles on Monte Grappa were fought are shown in relief.