The Grand Master in Trentino-Alto Adige a hundred years after the outbreak of the great war
Bolzano, Lavarone and Rovereto: these are the stopping places of Fra’ Matthew Festing’s journey of remembrance in Trentino-Alto Adige.
Those who fell in World War I and the medical treatment and aid dispensed by the Order of Malta’s members and volunteers to soldiers and civilians on all the fronts were remembered during a ceremony on 4th July. The Archbishop of Trento, Msgr. Luigi Bressan, celebrated mass in the military cemetery of Slaghenaufi, in the municipality of Lavarone, the last resting place of the 748 people who fell between 1916 and 1918 on the highlands of Folgaria, Lavarone and Luserna. The cemetery is next to where the Order of Malta’s ‘Malga Belem’ war hospital stood which, together with that of Villa Pasquali in Folgaria, had been set up by the Grand Priory of Austria and Bohemia during the Great War in the border zone between Trentino and Veneto.
After the mass, a laurel wreath was laid in memory of the soldiers who had fought each other on this land one hundred years ago and the Sovereign Order of Malta’s flag was hoisted to fly beside the others.
The focus of the celebrations was the heroic assistance offered by Countess Edina Clam Gallas in the Order of Malta’s Villa Pasquali and Malga Belem hospitals during the Great War. It is thanks to Edina Clam Gallas’s camera and her voluminous correspondence with family members that we can today know and admire what was a large and modern hospital complex, with a surgery department for serious cases, serving all the wounded on whichever side they fought.
In the afternoon, in the Congress Centre in Lavarone there was the launch of the book «Lettere dal fronte», the Italian edition of the correspondence between Countess Edina Clam Gallas Winkelbauer and her family. As Christine Kelly Winkelbauer told us, her grandmother Edina was 25 when she arrived in Folgaria. She stayed there for one year and was then transferred to Dolina, in Galicia, where she remained until the spring of 1917, after which she was moved to the Slaghenaufi hospital in Lavarone, where she stayed until the war ended.
Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing recalled that the Sovereign Order of Malta operated contemporaneously on both fronts during World War I with its hospitals on the Lavarone upland and also with its hospital trains and eight hospitals on Italian territory, providing medical treatment and assistance to tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians, both Italian and Austro-Hungarian.
Joining the Peace Bell Foundation
On Sunday 5th July, Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing and Vicereggente Lorenzo Saiani signed the peace memorandum making the Sovereign Order of Malta a member of the Fondazione Opera Campana dei Caduti of Rovereto. Founded by Father Antonio Rossaro, Chaplain of the Order of Malta after the Great War, the Peace Bell – named Maria Dolens – represents an eternal symbol of condemnation of conflicts, pacification of consciences, brotherhood between men and solidarity among peoples. It is made out of the bronze from the cannons belonging to the countries fighting in World War I and its first toll rang out on 4th October 1925.
There are now 87 countries belonging to the “Peace Memorandum”, including the Holy See, the UN and the Council of Europe. The ceremony was formalized by raising the Sovereign Order of Malta’s flag and by the hundred tolls of the Peace Bell.
The two Grand Masters from Trento
Fra’ Matthew Festing’s visit was also an opportunity to commemorate two remarkable Grand Masters, both born in Trento, who between the end of the 19th and the early 20th centuries governed the Order of Malta uninterruptedly from 1872 al 1931: Giovanni Battista Ceschi a Santa Croce and Galeazzo von Thun und Hohenstein.
Accompanying the Grand Master on this visit were the Grand Commander Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, the Grand Hospitaller Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel, the Receiver of the Common Treasure, János Esterházy de Galántha and Fra’ John E. Critien, member of the Sovereign Council.