Enrico Prampolini, Attilio and Giuseppe Terragni, Monumento ai caduti (Como, 1930-1933)


Monumento ai caduti (‘Monument to the fallen’), dedicated to the inhabitants of Como who died during the Great War, was built between 1930 and 1933 in an area very close to Lake Como. Its story is quite long and troubled, given that the idea of building a monument was first proposed in 1918, at the end of the conflict, but only became definitive in 1930. After two public competitions (mid-twenties) and the establishment of two expert councils supervised by the local administration (annulled), at Marinetti’s suggestion Enrico Prampolini was asked to complete a previous sketch by Sant’Elia (1914), portraying a power plant. Officially in charge, Prampolini adapted the building to its new function and planned to introduce a 3-metre-high blue colonnade as crowning element of the monument (subsequently rejected by the local "podestà", the Fascist term for ‘mayor’). Then, unable to attend the ongoing works at the construction site, he was assigned the role of artistic consultant, and substituted by the architect Attilio Terragni, who would actively supervise construction work. Terragni, together with his brother Giuseppe, had been given the responsibility for a complex project that was externally untouchable but internally in need of a plan. The result was a tiring compromise: a massive fabric (33 metres high) in reinforced concrete completely covered by a stone surface. The stone was sourced from the Karst region, one of the places where Italian soldiers fought during WWI. The Monumento ai caduti was finally inaugurated on the 4th November 1933 and it is still in place.

Main Principles

  1. The Sacralisation of the New Man’s Total Politics through the Arts

  2. Shaping the New Man’s Reality by Fashioning National Myths

  3. Monumentalism: Visualising Subjectivity and Objectivity


This majestic memorial, recalling a modern and disproportionately high ziggurat, is made up of a massive trapezoidal pedestal whence four columns rise up, sustaining a structure ‘lightened’ by two rectangular ‘windows’ framing the sky. Overall, every geometric element within the monument contributes to the creation of a balanced proportion between full and empty spaces, lights and shadows. Within the pedestal, two symmetrical entrances with inscriptions above are the filters connecting the city to the internal part of the monument. 'The city glorifies its sons with a stone coming from Carso, 1915-1918' ('La città esalta con le pietre del Carso la Gloria dei suoi figli 1915 1918') is facing the city; while Sant’Elia’s last words 'Tonight we will sleep in Trieste or in Heaven among heroes' ('Questa notte dormiremo a Trieste o in Paradiso fra gli eroi') overlook the lake. The interior, dominated by a gigantic granite monolith bearing the names of the fallen, is composed of simple and geometric environments: a sepulchral chapel, a crypt and some passages (staircases and elevator included).

Rethinking and softly reshaping the Futuristic architectural principles established by Sant’Elia and mediated by Prampolini, Attilio and Giuseppe Terragni were able to create a memorial that stood between past and future. Resuming an old sketch, Monumento ai caduti clearly looks towards the past, but is also an up-to-date monument, a perfect expression of the ‘arte totale’ that the regime desired to spread through culture and monumentality. Monumento follows a consolidated memorialization tradition, highly desired/coveted and reinforced by the Fascist government, at a time when the possibility of a global war was no longer an illusion, but a real possibility. The idea of having a wartime narrative explicitly told and ‘illustrated’ by monuments was one of the cornerstones of the cultural programme of the PNF (National Fascist Party). It seemed that all around Italy – especially where war had actually been fought – there was a good reason to commemorate a place recalling the patriotic ideals promoted by Fascism during WWI (from Italian interventionism, in 1915, to the conquest of Fiume, a city that was a point of contention between Italy and Yugoslavia, in 1919). The Fascist regime wanted in this way to create and promote national myths in order to reinforce military principles and ideals such as sacrifice for the country or war itself. Monuments – and, more directly, armed conflicts – were thus a necessary element of collective affirmation: the inaugural ceremony of Terragni’s memorial (1933) is a demonstration of that essential, political rituality. The powerful language used for this modern mausoleum is accessory to the resonance of the message spread: it is inevitably visible, simultaneously redundant and unforgettable, making it a landmark for the entire city.


Ciucci, Giorgio. (ed.). 1996. Giuseppe Terragni 1904-1943. Milan: Electa.

Marcianò, Ada Francesca. 2008. Giuseppe Terragni. Opera completa 1925-1943. Rome: Officina edizioni.

Silvia Colombo