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Gubbio’s Forty Modern-Day Martyrs

Date: June 23, 2011 - categories: , , - 3 Comments

<i>Mausoleo dei Quaranta Martiri</i>

Mausoleo dei Quaranta Martiri

Every year on June 22nd in Gubbio, a solemn procession led by the bishop heads to the Mausoleo dei Quaranta Martiri to pay homage to the forty civilians shot by the Germans against a nearby wall in the early morning of June 22nd, 1944. The shooting of a German medical officer and the wounding of another by partisans had resulted in an immediate irate reaction: the rounding up of local civilians by the German occupying forces. Knowing the German retaliaton norms – the death of forty civilians for every German officer killed, twenty for every foot soldier – the bishop of Gubbio intervened at once. He received from the German commander assurance of no reprisal if further incidents did not occur; yet, the following day, the round-up continued. Some of those taken were liberated after a cursory interrogation, others were held.

In the early hours of June 22nd, some were dragged into the countryside to dig a mass grave. Shortly after, all forty were bound, hand and foot, blindfolded, lined up against a wall and shot. Bullet holes still remain in the wall. A stop to pay homage at the Mausoleo is a must for me on any visit to Gubbio.

40 cypresses

40 cypresses

The interior of the white limestone mausoleum is most moving: forty stone sarcophaghi, each one bearing the name of the victim, date of birth and photo. Some have fresh flowers nearby: sign of a recent visit of a relative. One time an elderly lady sitting in a chair near the three Bedini tombs told me their story: one was her brother, one her father, one her uncle.

Red and white begonias now bloom where the mass graves had been dug. Forty cypresses line the entryway. A stunning contemporary statue (work of the son of a martire) stands near the right of the entrance.The human figure is neither man nor woman but rather both: two of the victims were women, mother and daughter. A note in the Mausoleo posted by the Associazione Famiglie dei 40 Martiri tells the signficance of this sobering monument: “Let this be a sign of peace and pacification, but only on condition that there is a refusal of hatred and the oppression of war.”

(Note: Every year on May 15th, festival of the Corsa dei Ceri, the Ceraioli - protagonists of the festival – stop at the Mausoleum to pay their respects to the deceased Ceraioli, ie, the thirty-eight men executed by the Germans. After all, any man who ever lived in Gubbio, once carried the Ceri. Click here to read about the Corsa dei Ceri)

Click here for more on the Corsa dei Ceri
Click here for more on passione in Umbria/s May Festivals

3 Comments

  • Patrice says:

    Thanks for this article Anne.

  • Our recent visit to the Mausoleo di Quaranti Martiri in Gubbio where a cousin of ours lies entombed as one of the 40 martyrs (Giacomo Sollevanti) was an extraordinarily moving and meaningful visit for us. This peaceful resting place is an acute reminder of the atrocities of war. May the souls of these martyrs rest in peace.

  • Janet Bunnett says:

    My father was the SIB Investigating Officer at Gubbio and said that one day he would take me to Gubbio to see the town. I lost my father in 2005 so now I intend to visit in June of this year as this event was one of many in Italy that
    he told me about as a small child.

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