Maria Bergamas she lost her son during the First World War, chosen as the mother of the The Unknown Soldier, to represent all the other Italian mothers whose remains have not been returned. Let’s find out all about its history.
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Who was Maria Bergamas?
Maria Bergamas is the Italian woman chosen to represent all Italian mothers who had lost a child during the WWI, whose remains had not been returned.
After the war, Maria was given the task of choosing the body of a soldier among eleven corpses of unidentifiable fallen, collected in different areas of the front. On October 28, 1921, in the patriarchal basilica of Aquileia, in what will go down in history with the name of Rite of Aquileiaconsecrating her as the spiritual mother of the Unknown Soldier, the woman was placed in front of the eleven lined coffins: she placed the shawl on the second coffin and, after passing in front of the first, was unable to continue in the reconnaissance and collapsed to the ground in front of the tenth coffin screaming the name of the son on which, for this reason, the choice fell.
When and where was she born?
Maria Bergamas was born in Gradisca d’Isonzo, January 23, 1867, died in Trieste on December 22, 1953, at the age of 86 years old.
Before getting married, her name was Maria Maddalena Blasizza. She took the surname of her husband, Bergamas, after marriage, the same as her son Antonio.
Where was she buried?
In November 1954 she too was buried next to 10 unknown soldiers.
The son – The story
Antonio Bergamas is the son of Maria Bergamas. A Jew from Trieste, he was a municipal teacher. In 1914 he deserted the Austro-Hungarian army and passed to Italy where he volunteered under a false name, reaching the front in June 1915.
He was drafted into the 137th Infantry Regiment of the Barletta Brigade like Antonio Bontempelli, a fictitious name imposed by the Italian Army to enlist unredeemed volunteers. He volunteered to lead the regimental attack with his platoon. He managed to pass two rows of fences unscathed but in the third he was hit by a barrage of machine guns and hit with five shots in the chest and one in the forehead.
At the end of the fight a piece of paper was found in the boy’s pocket on which was written:
In case of my death, inform the mayor of San Giovanni di Manzano, cav. Desiderio Molinari
He was the only one who knew his true identity.
He died on June 18, 1916 and was decorated with a silver medal for military valor. The body of Antonio Bergamas was therefore recognized and buried together with the others who had fallen in the nearby war cemetery of Marcesine on the Altipiano dei Sette Comuni. Following the violent bombing of the area, however, the bodies became unrecognizable and Antonio Bergamas with the other companions in misfortune was officially missing.
The letter that Antonio Bargamas wrote to his mother before leaving for the front.
Tomorrow I will leave for who knows where, almost certainly to go to my death. When you receive this mine, I will no longer be. Perhaps you will not understand this, you will not be able to understand how, not being forced, he went to die on the battlefields … Forgive me for the immense pain that I bring you and of what I bring to my father and my sister, but, believe it , it is a thousand times sweeter for me to die in the face of my native country, at our sea, for my natural homeland, than dying there in the frozen fields of Galicia or in the stony ones of Serbia, for a homeland that was not the mine and that I hated.
Goodbye my beloved mom, goodbye my dear sister, goodbye my father. If I die, I die with your beloved names on my lips, in front of our wild Karst.
(from The Corriere della Sera 1/11/2011)
On November 4, 2021, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the burial of the Unknown Soldier at the Altare della Patria, Rai 1 broadcasts the docu-drama Maria’s choice, in which Maria Bergamas is played by Sonia Bergamasco.
The Unknown Soldier
He is an Italian soldier who fell at the front during the WWI and buried in Rome under the statue of the goddess Roma atAltar of the Fatherland at the Vittoriano. His identity remains unknown since the body was chosen from among those of fallen with no elements that could allow recognition.
The tomb of the The Unknown Soldier it symbolically represents all the fallen and missing in the Italian war: it is the setting for official ceremonies that take place annually on the occasion of civil holidays. During ceremonial occasions in Italy the President of the Italian Republic and the highest offices of the State pay homage to the chapel of the Unknown Soldier with the deposition of a laurel wreath in memory of the fallen and missing Italians in the wars.
Solemnly inaugurated on November 4, 1921 with the transfer of the remains of a soldier from Aquileia, after a special train journey through various Italian cities. The mourning for the hundreds of thousands of fallen was linked to the militarist and nationalist rhetoric of the celebration for the third anniversary of the Victory. The following year, with the assumption of power by Benito Mussolini, the The Unknown Soldier became one of the main symbols of fascist propaganda.
How came the designation of the body
According to the instructions of the ministry, eleven coffins, identical in shape and size, were gathered in the basilica of Aquileia on October 28, 1921. That day, at 11 am, in the presence of representatives of the institutions and of the mutilated, of former combatants and mothers and of widows of fallen soldiers the body of the The Unknown Soldier aside
of a mother of an unrecognized fallen victim and so that the chosen chest does not know which area of the front it comes from.
It was Maria Maddalena Blasizza of Gradisca d’Isonzo who chose the coffin.
The chosen coffin was placed in a special box sent by the ministry of war. It was an oak chest with metal decorations in wrought iron, forged from trench shields and supported by SIPE-type hand grenades. On the lid were fixed a helmet, a rifle and a tricolor flag. The other ten bodies remained in Aquileia to be solemnly buried on November 4 in the basilica’s cemetery.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is always guarded by two soldiers (positioned at the ends of the tomb) belonging to the different weapons of the Italian armed forces who alternate in the service. Originally, however, a ten-year duration was envisaged for each weapon: in the first ten years the honor guard was composed by Royal Carabinieri and on May 24, 1932 there was the handover to the infantry. The military is currently on guard duty for one hour with four hours of rest. Since the Altare della Patria is considered a military zone, the honor guard is armed and equipped with ammunition. After the attacks in Rome of 12 December 1969, which also hit the Altare della Patria, the guard service was temporarily extended to the foot of the steps.
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