The Seven Martyrs

On the 3rd of August, 1944, in front of the eyes of men, women and children of Castello, 7 young men, aged between 20 and 46, were executed by a German firing squad. Their punishment was in reprisal for the death of a German sentry. It was later found that he had fallen into the water and drowned, with no evidence of any foul play.

This stretch of the Riva was renamed after this atrocity, you’ll know it now as Riva dei Sette Martiri (the Riva of the Seven Martyrs). On the wall of the building right at the corner of the Riva and Via Garibaldi, you’ll find a memorial to these 7 men.

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Here is the building in question, with the Riva on the right, and the Via on the left. (By the way, this is the only Via in Venice, and Riva means shore.)

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As I approached the Via, I noticed that the edicola (newsstand) at the corner looked somehow different.

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Someone had created an homage to the seven martyrs, using the sides of the edicola as the support, and various media for the artwork. I don’t know whether this was created as part of the recent art biennale, or if it is a permanent presentation.

This is the name of the artist:

(Edited: My grammar has been corrected (thanks, C.), and this is, in fact, an homage to James Lee Byars, an artist now deceased.)

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And, here are the tributes to each of the executed men.

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Aliprando Armellini 24 years

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Alfredo Viviani 36 years

Girolamo Guasto 25 years

Girolamo Guasto 25 years

Bruno de Gaspari 20 years

Bruno de Gaspari 20 years

Gino Conti 46 years

Gino Conti 46 years

Brothers Alfred and Luciano Gelmi 20 and 19 years

Brothers Alfredo and Luciano Gelmi 20 and 19 years

I hope the nizioleti (street sign) will soon get some needed attention.

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34 Comments

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34 responses to “The Seven Martyrs

  1. Caroline

    Ah, I wonder if the artworks might have been produced out of the educational activities for children & schools run by Palazzo Grassi & the Punta della Dogana?

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    • Was that part of the Biennale Art activities, Caroline? It has to be something like that. I hope someone finds out, and lets us know.

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      • Caroline

        It could have been Biennale-related, but the Pinault places do run these activities for kids & families all year round – it’s called the st_art programme. Along with seasons of talks for adults on Wednesday afternoons and now the occasional art film season at the Teatrino.

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  2. I was intrigued to find that the 7 men who were shot were from the prison. I’d always though they were from Castello.

    I went back later, and found this reference to a (?) sponsor.

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  3. steven

    I’m embarrassed to say I’d passed by this many times without thinking much of it, so I was thankful to read your account of it, Yvonne–and haven’t walked by it since without thinking of these poor guys and their loved ones (and the many many others like them everywhere else during that war and alas, many others). It sounds almost like the plot of a story of Camus…

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  4. Such a sad story but the artwork on the edicola is wonderful, so colorful.

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  5. Thank you for posting this. We stayed just around the corner and knew the story and saw the monument, and the edicola. I wondered about the edicola if it was an unofficial memorial, like the above poster, or if it was the work of local children who had been told the story. It is such a lovely “local” corner of Venice.

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    • I really hope I find someone who can tell me the story behind the art work on the edicola. Is there a School of Art in the sestiere, I wonder?

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      • Caroline

        I believe the only liceo artistico is the one on the rio San Trovaso, and the art college is of course the Accademia on the Zattere. Just a normal school project, maybe?

        I’m surprised by how well the installation has lasted so far, come to think about it.

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  6. Caroline

    During the Biennale I’d noticed the artwork on the edicola but hadn’t realised it was an installation – I thought it was just an unofficial stand for someone selling small paintings and that the artist must be lurking nearby!

    I don’t think it gives the name of the artist, the plaque says “omaggio a (here meaning ‘homage to’) James Lee Byars”. The latter was an American artist who died a few years ago; but there was a piece by him in the Biennale at the Central Pavilion in the Giardini (http://www.contemporaryartdaily.com/2013/06/venice-james-lee-byars-at-the-central-pavilion/) and another piece (http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/james-lee-byars-byars-is-elephant-at-the-opening-of-the-news-photo/169629154) can still be seen at the Punta della Dogana. He’s not an artist I know much about so I can’t suggest how ththis installation is a homage to him!

    Now I must go back and look at it again.

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    • Thanks for clarifying that this is an homage “to” James Lee Byars. I was puzzled when I looked for him online, and found he was no longer alive.

      So, now we have another puzzle, Caroline!

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  7. A tragic story, so many from that war. One of the horrors involves Italy’s involvement in the German invasion of the Soviet Union: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_participation_in_the_Eastern_Front

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  8. This is fascinating Y, thank you for the story, such sadness. What a lovely remembrance on the edicola.

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  9. Dear Yvonne,
    Hope the rain clears up really soon!
    Loved the idea of being like a wet dog, could just imagine that 🙂 Suppose it meant you could get back to your book …
    Have a great week &
    Ciao from Vienna,
    Liz

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  10. I took several photos of the art work…having no real idea of what I was looking at. Grazie for the very meaningful explanation.
    And I hope your weather soon brightens. I think you’re getting all the bad weather I didn’t get in December.

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    • I’m getting a continuation of the endless rain we had when I was last here! Meanwhile, it’s so dry back home, where it should be belting down rain.

      I was at the blessing of animals at San Nicolo dei Mendicoli today. it was outdoors, and the rain stopped for a short time. It was so lovely, and there were several gorgeous cats. One looked like Minx!

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  11. Beautiful art rises from the horrors of war.

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    • I’d really like to talk to the artist, to ask him about the symbolism. Maybe I can find him.

      I was thinking how lucky we have been, to be that little bit removed from the realities of war. My dad and Maurice, served in the Canadian Merchant Navy in the 2 world wars, but they came back safely.

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  12. Thank you, Linda.

    Not only donder und blitzen, but now the drains are going ‘glug-glug’. I don’t like that sound!

    I hope it’s not raining when you have to get into the boat, and get to the terminal.

    Ciao, cara. xxx

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  13. Oh Yvonne…you are so right….man’s inhumanity to man…..will we ever learn??
    Great post!! Grazie!
    Omg…it is coming down with a vengeance!!
    Lightening and thunder too…..

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  14. Dear Yvonne,

    I agree with the above posts, especially the last two. It explains to me personally, why some of our Italian colleagues may – at least to some extent – have found it so difficult to get on in a German-language and cultural environment. Such a sad story.

    But the pictures were bright and cheerful – nice that the work of such young artists were left up 🙂 – to be enjoyed by passers by.
    Buena domenica!
    Ciao, Liz

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    • I guess we’ll never see the end of man’s inhumanity to man, and the long lasting repercussions and memories.

      I hope the homage remains, also.

      I’m like a wet dog. I went out (no rain), to find the place Winckelmann mentioned. I found it, then the rain poured down. Maybe tomorrow will be nicer.

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  15. julie

    So sad Yvonne,, that poor mother lost two of her sons in one day.

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  16. When I moved to the area of via Garibaldi, years ago, the newsstand still worked as an edicola. I don’t know much about this installation, I think I remember it appeared during a recent Biennale and then it was left.
    I wrote something about surviving sings of the war years in Venice here:
    http://winckelmann.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/inquietanti-fantasmi/
    Unfortunately in italian, but maybe it can interest you. Ciao!

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    • Thank you, Winckelmann, it will be good practice for me. Then, I can always turn to an online translator.

      PS Now, I have to go and look at Dorsoduro, 3433, to see if the remnants of the words are still there.

      PPS (The never-ending reply) I went, and it can still be seen. But, without your information, I would never have known what it was.

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  17. Jan Graham

    Thats very interesting Yvonne,

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