The art historian Elena Menon leads us to the discovery of the Heroes' Cemetery.
Aquileia, site of memory
Elena Menon - 13/05/2023
The art historian Elena Menon leads us to discover the Heroes' Cemetery, the burial ground behind the Basilica of Aquileia, one of the places of memory where the Italian soldiers who fell at the front during the First World War rest.
We are inside the Cemetery of the Fallen of Aquileia which stands behind the patriarchal Basilica. The cemetery is better known as the Heroes' Cemetery and was born in 1915 on what was the old municipal cemetery, the parish one of the Aquileia people. The need to bury the soldiers at the front already arises from the first months of the war, therefore the Army requests that the dead at the front be buried together with the people of Aquleia. Soon, however, the cemetery is full so it is decided to build a new cemetery where to move the bodies of these Aquileias and to dedicate this cemetery to the military, only to the military. The idea is to create an Italian garden and then to create ordered rows of graves in which to bury these soldiers who have simple crosses to indicate the name of the deceased and the graves are all decorated with simple pebbles what you see . Now instead it is a later arrangement in fact in 1917 the Dante Alighieri Society commissioned the sculptor Alberto Calligaris those crosses we see today.
This cemetery is of fundamental importance because at that time Aquileia became the capital of irredentism in these regions. In fact Aquileia was Hapsburg, it was under the empire, and when war breaks out Aquileia is still so in a certain sense, while for the Italians it is liberated, for some it can also be occupied.
The important thing for all the soldiers who were buried here is that they were equal in the face of death.
In fact the crosses had to be the same for all the few monuments that you see appearing sporadic from time to time are those commissioned by families because the army believed that the dead soldier should be the same whether he was a simple soldier or an officer in the face of death. What embellishes this cemetery? The first is the epigraph that the poet D'Annunzio dedicates to Aquileia. These are some verses that he writes and dedicates to Aquileia which is walled up on the wall of the apse of the Basilica on 2 November 1915 and which is, however, outraged, totally chiseled by the Austrians after Caporetto and restored in 1918 after the end of the conflict. Two other very important sculptural groups adorn the cemetery, the northern part of the cemetery, and they are the Furlan group, a marble group called "The Sacrifice of the Fighter" and the one in cast bronze in the Turin arsenal by the sculptor Ettore Ximenes.
We know that on 21 October 1921 the Soldier was chosen in the Basilica of Aquileia who with full honors will then be transferred four days later to Rome to the Altar of the Fatherland and that the so-called Unknown Soldier is still there.
Guido Cirilli's monument is important because it is a symbolic re-proposition and the arch that overlooks the Karst and which practically must remind those who fought but also all of us which were the bloodiest places of the battles in this region.