The most significant monument to the Italian community ever to be considered in Scotland is now imminent. The idea is to build an Italian Cloister Garden next to St Andrew’s Cathedral in Clyde Street, Glasgow. The planned garden will be a real “punto di ritrovo” for all Italians and those who want to experience a little corner of the Bel Paese in the heart of Glasgow.
Besides water features and seating, the garden will have a special memorial (the first public memorial in Britain) to all who lost their lives in the Arandora Star tragedy in World War II.
In addition, Roman Architect Giulia Chiarini has designed a unique space at the centre in which people will be able to wander amid mirrored plinths engraved with quotes from the great Italian writers and from the Sacred Scriptures – a real visitor experience all Scots Italians can be proud of.
In early June 1940, immediately Italy entered the Second World War, all Italian male civilians between the ages of 18 and 70 years living in the UK were arrested by the police and military to be interned under instructions of the War Cabinet. Following a decision to transport a number of internees to Canada and Australia the liner “Arandora Star” left Liverpool for Canada carrying some 1,570 Italian, German and Jewish internees.
On the morning of 2nd July 1940, off the coast of Ireland, the Arandora Star was torpedoed and sank with the loss of nearly 700 lives – which included 446 Italian Nationals who had made their permanent home in the United Kingdom.
The chance to build a cloister garden as outlined here comes but once in a lifetime. It falls to our generation to make this wonderful monument a reality. I urge you to consider the idea favourably and support us financially. You may wish to recall a dear one who has died on a “wall of names “, or perhaps put together with members of the family to make a more significant contribution. Details of how you can help are enclosed with this brochure. All donations will be gratefully accepted, and as you wish, acknowledged in a permanent way within the precincts. The monument itself will be a fitting and beautiful symbol of the great bonds of friendship between Scotland and Italy. Besides offering much needed facilities and gathering space for the Cathedral, the Cloister Garden will quickly become a much-loved oasis of tranquility amid the city bustle; a place to come alone or with friends, to reflect, to sit awhile and to remember. Please help me in this effort. Mario Conti – Archbishop of Glasgow
First Minister Alex Salmond launched the appeal in Glasgow this morning. A small committee has been set up to carry the project forward – Mr Ronnie Convery (Chairman), Cav Leandro Franchi, Mr Alex Mosson and Mr Giancarlo Romano. Their website is here
The cloister will be an enclosed space adjoining St Andrew’s Cathedral in the heart of Glasgow. The paved and grassed central area will contain a modem monument of large, mirrored plinths on which will be inscribed verses from the scriptures and from the Italian poets. Visitors will be able to wander through the construction, reflecting on their own lives in the context of the words of Sacred Scripture. A water feature will run through the garden, fountains will flow around it and an olive tree – symbolizing peace – will be planted at its heart. The surrounding cloister itself will be wide and accommodating, offering space for gatherings, exhibitions, cafe facilities and meeting rooms. The architect Giulia Chiarini has designed the area as a space for memory, reflection and as a monument to reconciliation.
People who suffered the loss of husbands, or fathers, or sons have always carried a sadness over the Arandora Star, but it is not just one of loss, it is also over their rejection from the Scottish community, The memorial garden will recall events and heal memories by acknowledging that it is alright to remember the past and, as in life in general, rise above it.
But I would like to think that this is more than one reference to a tragedy. I want it to celebrate the links between Italy and Scotland as the Italian community have made a great contribution to the country – Mario Conti – Archbishop of Glasgow
The garden was an opportunity to forgive, but not to forget. These things happen in war. It is a question of having a constructive approach in remembering the tragedy, as it is important to stay in touch with the past.- Gabriele Papadia de Bottini, the Consul General for Italy in Scotland
Among those lost on the Arandora Star were the following Barghigiani:
Agostini, Oliviero 29.04.1904
Bertolini, Vincenzo Silvio 14.06.1876
Biagioni, Ferdinando 06.07.1895
Da Prato, Silvio 27.02.1878
Poli, Amedeo 10.03.1896
Rocchiccioli, Caesar 06.12.1909
Togneri, Giuseppe 19.03.1889
Article about the Italian Cloister Garden in The Times of London this morning can be read here