Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Most Photogenic War Memorial: The Sacrario Militare di Pocol

The Approach to the Memorial Features the 14 Stations of the Cross

Opened by Italy's fascist government in 1935, the Sacrario Militare di Pocol is an essential orientation point to learn about the mountain warfare on the Great War's Italian Front. There are 9,770 fallen interred at the Sacario including 4,455 unknown Italian soldiers and 87 from the Austro-Hungarian forces. Four Italian heroes have special tombs. 

Main Memorial Entrance

View of Cortina and Tofane Group from the Observation Deck

It is also one of the most photogenic war memorials in the world. Its views of the resort town of Cortina in the valley below from 5,000 feet and the mighty Tofane Group to the north, where mountaintop  warfare was waged until the front moved far south after the Battle of Caporetto, are stunning. Also, it is a masterful work of architecture. The tower design is simple, almost plain, on the outside — there is simply nothing humans could create to compete visually with the surrounding Dolomite Alps. But  the architects were given free rein with the tremendous vertical space on the inside.  The central indoor feature is a dramatic spiral staircase to the observation deck near to the top of the 48-meter memorial.  The finishes are in fine taste, with few of the Fascistic-monumentalist touches.  

Central Staircase

Two of the artistic enhancements of the memorial show up frequently in histories of the Italian Front. The chapel contains a renowned fresco of a fallen soldier in the snow that's not a realistic representation of mountain soldiers but powerfully moving, nonetheless. At the memorial's entrance is a sculpture of a more authentic-looking dagger-armed elite Alpini soldier that's quite striking.


  1. Another site of pilgrimage: thanks for sharing.

  2. A cousin Giovani (John) Vercellino was born in Salto, Torino Italy but moved to Lead, South Dakota. Tragically, his parents died, so he and three brothers and a sister returned to Borgiallo, Italy and started the Temporino Auto factory. When WW I started, he served in the Italian Ski Troops for 3 years. Later he returned to Lead and is now buried there.

  3. Just returned from Italy. Spent an afternoon in Cortina. The Memorial seems to be modeled after a natural stone tower with a vertical crack that stands nearby.

  4. There's a similar soldier with dagger on a monument to Italian General Antonio Cantore just past the bus station in Cortina.

  5. The Italian website:
    google translated says:
    "...37 known Austro-Hungarian fallen soldiers coming from neighboring cemeteries of war."