Pasubio Ossuary

An ossuary is a container or room in which the bones of many dead people are placed. Some ossuaries are chests, boxes, and even water wells. In the case of the latter, there are documented instances in which soldiers of the winning side of a battle have been ordered to “get rid of the bodies” of the enemy dead, and those bodies were unceremoniously thrown down the nearest water well, turning the well into an ossuary. Web search that topic for the War Between the States Battle of South Mountain in Maryland and you will find ghost stories connected with dead Confederate soldiers having been thrown down a farmer’s well by Union soldiers after that battle.

In long-standing European cities, the dead from many centuries ago occupy increasingly scarce space, so it has been the practice to tunnel under the cities to create catacombs, or underground cemeteries where ancient human bones are stacked up in niches carved into the walls of seemingly endless pathways underground. Europeans got this idea from the ancient Romans, who did that in Rome, their capital city and a city that had been host to human habitation for millennia. In time, even the cavernous catacombs became so crowded with bones that it became impractical to keep the skeletons for individuals intact. Thus, you will see niche after niche with stacks of just thigh bones, or other bones by type, and you may see skulls used as macabre decorations, just about anywhere down there.

The Pasubio Ossuary is not so much like that. It is a place of honor and noble sacrifice, an ossuary that houses the skeletons of thousands of soldiers, yet that is only a tiny fraction, of the number of young soldiers who fell in the impossible mountainous terrain of the Dolomites, a mountain range in northeastern Italy. The ossuary was built for the fallen young soldiers of Italy and for their foe, the young soldiers of Austria-Hungary, who also fell there.

The battles in the high mountains took place during World War I. This was 1914-1918. My grandfather was an American dough boy, a farmer’s son who volunteered to fight for General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing who led the American Expeditionary Force to fight the Germans in France. To Americans, that war was about trench warfare. But the theater in which America’s ally, Italy, fought was in the Dolomites. Web search the June 2016 Smithsonian article titled, “The Most Treacherous Battle of World War I,” to see both the details about the combat in the Dolomites and the human side of soldiers. As you will read, many soldiers come home from war seemingly whole, but their memories are forever trapped with friends they lost and in their memory of enemies that they killed.

Many soldiers who come home cannot adjust, and even though folks try to help them, these soldiers must work it out themselves. They relate better to others who have “been there and done that.” Thus, it should be no surprise that some of them seek places of solitude where they can talk with God, and the high mountains of the Dolomites have an ossuary where they can commune with the remains of other young soldiers from long ago, who have “been there and done that.”

Source by Tony A Grayson

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