THE INNER PERIMETER
"THE MONUMENT AND ITS HISTORY"
The inner perimeter presents the history of the Victory Monument, starting with the demolition of the pre-existing monument right up to the present day. There are reproductions of important images, photographs and documents.
A monument is born
In the Summer of 1916, the Bohemian architect Karl Ernstberger designed a memorial to the many fallen from the 2nd Regiment of the Tiroler Kaiserjäger stationed in Bolzano, and deployed on several fronts during the First World War. An open space in Gries was chosen for this monument, near the Talfer Bridge.
Construction of the Kaiserjäger memorial only began in 1917, a year before the end of the war. It was left unfinished due to unfavourable end of the war for Austria and sourthern Tyrol’s annexation to the Kingdom of Italy in 1919. The construction was left abandoned for almost a decade.
Towards an profoundly “Italian” work
In early 1926, the dictator Benito Mussolini announced his desire to construct a monument dedicated to Cesare Battisti and the Trentino “martyrs” which should stand “on the same foundations where a monument to German victory should have stood.” However Battisti’s widow firmly opposed this and so the monument would instead be entitled “to the Italian victory.”
The (almost) rational arch
The architect Marcello Piacentini, from Rome, was awarded the project to build the new Italian monument. Inspired by the classical triumphal arch, he revised the structure and approached his work in a spirit of fervent nationalism. The monument was to be a symbol of conquest and victory and mark forever the new border.
Demolition as construction
The ceremony for laying first stone took place on 26th July 1926, the tenth anniversary of the death of Battisti. Demolition work on the Kaiserjäger monument began in the spring of 1927, at the same time as the foundations for the new monument were being dug.
From the first to the last stone
Once the demolition of the Kaiserjäger monument were complete in mid-1927, the construction work accelerated to a rapid pace. By the end of the year, Piacentini announced that the new monument was almost finished. The inauguration date was fixed for 12th July 1928.
“Architectural symbol of the Fascist soul”
Piacentini’s stated aim was to build the first “true Fascist monument”, for which he introduced an entirely new order of columns based of Lictor’s Fasces. Resembling a bundle of rods with a protruding axe-head, this had been an ancient Roman symbol of power, now adopted as the symbol Fascism.
Icon of the “New Order”
Standing at the centre of the new city forum, the monument served as rhetoric and propaganda. Along with the traditional historical sites, it quickly became one of the most well-known symbolic places in the city. It became the subject of paintings and was reproduced on postcards, commemorative medals, tourist guides, advertisements and posters for every kind of occasion.
Stage set I
The monument was destined to immediately become the scene for the most important public gatherings, political rallies and the ceremonies of the Fascist regime. Before it, marched war veterans’ associations and a range of Fascist organizations including the Quadri and the youth wing.
Stage set II
The Fascist war in Africa and Spain, together with the Proclamation of Empire in May 1936, allowed the Fascist regime to transform the monument to reflect not only past victories. It now became the place to celebrate new national glories motivated by an ideology of reaffirming the superiority of Latin civilization.
The hub of the Fascist city
The completion of the monument also signalled the Fascist regime’s renewal and modernization of the city of Bolzano. Ten years of urban planning and development underlined the monument’s pivotal position in the “new” Bolzano.
To preserve or to destroy?
After the Second World War the monument remained the focus of tensions between Fascists and anti-Fascists and between the linguistic groups. There were other tensions also, between those who sought to preserve it and those who wished for a break with the past, at the expense of the architecture from the Fascist period.
A monument to other victories?
As with all monuments that survive the historical moment in which they are built, the Monument to Victory has gradually acquired meanings other than those originally intended. This is even as it remains, first and foremost a document from that period. The transformation into a public space for historical reflection represents an important moment in the continuous dialogue between the past and the present.