|A first look inside the gates of the French Military Cemetery. The tombstone on the left is inscripted "Inconnu" - Unknown - and "Mort pour la France"-- one could add, of course, and Italy.|
For years we wanted to visit the French World War II military cemetery in Rome, but the hours it was open were difficult to discern and the access to it even more so. But this Spring, when we lived right across the Tevere from Monte Mario, on which it's located, it was time to try again. We found it, and found it open, but yet it held surprises for us.
The first sight to greet us was row upon row of crescent-shaped tombstone tops. Clearly, here, French means North African, or mainly so. One site describes it as "a modest cemetery for 1,700 French Expeditionary Corps soldiers, mainly Moroccans and Algerians."
There are Christian graves, fewer in number, and at a more prominent location - actually lower on the mountain but surrounding the main monument. A video clip from 1947 of the inauguration of the cemetery shows only Christian graves.
Looking at these markers of those North Africans who literally gave their lives for France, and Italy, we were reminded of Italy's current treatment of North Africans. Italians should be reminded, we thought, of the sacrifices made by these non-Christians for the modern Italian state.
|A permanent map in the cemetery showing|
"The Offensives in the Abruzzi, December 1943 - May 1944"
The French military cemetery is as moving in its way as the Non-Catholic (Protestant) cemetery next to the Pyramid, and the small British Commonwealth military cemetery next to it in Ostiense. All serve to impress upon us the tragedies of war.
|The Christian section|
Information on visiting the cemetery is not easily obtainable in English. The hours are now generous, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. Saturdays. Closed Sundays.
|If you are bold, you can try this "alternate" path down. We did|
and ended up in bushes and with a few sketchy characters around.
But we did finally get to the Olympic Stadium and home.
|The 1947 monument, designed by A. Chatelin|
|Back of the monument, listing cities where battles occurred.|
|And once down, we found this statue to the|
Czech fighter for liberation, Alexander Dubcek.