A futile slaughter: Florence remembers World War I

Exhibition enters final week at the Oblate

Kate Mani
January 31, 2017 - 12:24

“Under the line of enemy fire, minus 15 degrees, and {the soldiers} have to advance. Thousands die frozen…the most courageous officers burst out crying at the futility of the efforts, facing the impossible.”


The story encapsulated in this letter, written by an Italian war general during the 1915 Battle of Isonzo in present-day Slovenia, seems a long way from via dell'Oriuolo and the shadow of Brunelleschi’s cupola.


Yet the Biblioteca Oblate is currently remembering the 2,334 Florentines who died in World War I, and the thousands of casualties from throughout Tuscany, in its exhibition “Un’inutile strage: L’italia nella Grande Guerra”. Now in its final week, with a lecture discussing war and peace in both World Wars on February 4, it is well worth a visit to this compact but touching exhibit.


Taking its name from a 1917 war description by Pope Benedict XV, “Un’inutile strage,” (a futile slaughter), provides a window into early twentieth-century Europe. Information panels explain the historical, political and socio-economic context behind Italy’s First World War involvement. Information is given only in Italian, however its language is clear, concise and peppered with moving images.  


The exhibition also outlines key protagonisti who led Italy to war, and the political parties and ideas behind them. It is not only male protagonisti who feature, with information on how women were mobilized in the war as they replaced men in factories and offices and assisted the Red Cross closer to the frontline. The display also shows a personal side to a great war, including extracts from letters and diaries which represent the four million letters and cards sent to and from the front during three years of war.


Above all else, the exhibition hopes to “remember the people, and in particular the young people devastated by this tragic event.” We owe it to Florence’s World War I casualties to understand their story and take a moment to remember them.


The Oblate library is open Mondays, 2pm to 10pm; Tuesdays to Saturdays 9pm -midnight; closed Sundays and holidays. “Un’inutile strage” is on until February 4.

On February 4 at 5pm the conference “come si esce della guerra” will take place. For details visit the website (in Italian).

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