Coming in to land at Brindisi airport, I caught my first glimpse of the impressive War Memorial Tower. It stood tall and proud over the harbour, and I could see the Virgin Mary aloft keeping a close eye on the people below. It grabbed my attention and intrigued me, I have always admired it, but until this week, I had never paid it a visit.
A few friends and I decided it was about time we checked it out. The small water taxi to the other side of the harbour was just departing, but I called out to the Captain and he returned to let four lovely ladies aboard!
Reaching up towards the sky, the Brindisi War Memorial Tower sends a message to us all. The majestic monument, with its rudder design was erected to honour all the Italian sailors who lost their lives at sea during the First World War. Brindisi port played a vital part during this period and as such, it was rewarded by Mr. Mancarella to erect a National Monument here. This was a great honour for the city and was a cause for celebration!
A national competition took place to design the memorial, with 92 entrants putting forward their imaginative artwork and motto for this prestigious monument. Architect Luigi Brunati and sculpture Amerigo Bartoli won the competition with their design to erect a 68 meter tall rudder with a memorial Chapel at the base. Built out of carparo (solid and gilded tuffo), it took just a year to build. Work started 28th October 1932 and the inauguration took place 4th November 1933 in the presence of King Victor Emanuel lll.
In 1955 the Archbishop of Brindisi donated a 10 ton statue of the Virgin Mary and this now sits in a large niche near the top of the monument overlooking the port.
At the foot of the monument, a couple of anchors from retired Austrian battleships: ‘Viribus Unitis’ and ‘Regheoff’ greeted us. Two of us climbed the spiral staircase to the top, the other two cheated and took the lift. We arrived at roughly the same time (which left me feeling pretty smug!) and we all rushed out to admire the view! Wow! What a view! The harbour looked even more impressive from this height. The 360° panoramic view was breathtaking. I spotted a commercial aircraft coming in to land and snapped a quick picture with my mobile (the quality isn’t great but you get the idea!).
Making our way down the spiral staircase sent me a little dizzy but there was one last thing to see. The huge vaulted Memorial Chapel below. Black marble etched in white writing bore the names of the fallen, and a large bronze statue of the Virgin Mary named ‘Stella Maris’ which means the Star of the Sea, takes centre stage at the altar. There are several arched alcoves with the names of the sailors who died during the First and Second World Wars. Sadly 5922 and 33900 respectively, lost their lives during these times.
So, if you’re in the Brindisi area, please take some time to visit the monument and admire its beautiful views, and more importantly, honour and remember the fallen sailors.
Thanks to the volunteers at the memorial for helping with the history of this iconic landmark.