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Aquileia / Oglej

18 August 2024


5:00 p.m. guided tour of the river port of Aquileia by Daniele Pasini; departure from the square in front of the Paleocristian Museum of Monastero - piazza Monastero, 33051 Aquileia

7:00 p.m. "Afroasiatic Aquileia", a talk with Andrea Bellavite, Gian Paolo Gri and Giorgio Banchig at the Domus of Tito Macro

8:30 p.m. refreshments provided by the organisers in the square at the southeast corner of the basilica, near the entrance to the Heroes' cemetery

9:30 p.m. start of the performance in the square at the southeast corner of the basilica, near the entrance to the Heroes' cemetery

event language: Italian

information: +39 3281547471

thanks to: comune di Aquileia, Fondazione Aquileia, Andrea Bellavite, don Mirko Franetovich, Gian Paolo Gri, Giorgio Banchig, Daniele Pasini 

Don Mirko arrives after the last mass when it’s already dark, speeding towards the rectory in his flaming Alfa Romeo. After dinner, crossing the chapter square, he asks me: "Have you ever been inside the basilica?" “Only once, as a child, I don't remember much...” “Come on, let's go”.

We enter from behind, from the Heroes Cemetery, the cemetery where the arcosolium is located. The ten Unknown Soldiers were buried here in the aftermath of the First World War, and right beneath the arcosolium is the tomb of Maria Bergamas, the Jewish mother (for some reason no one ever remembers this detail) of a man fallen in battle, who chose the coffin of the eleventh Nameless Soldier which was to be transferred to the Altare della Patria. While Don Mirko turns the large bronze key in the door, everything outside is silent, and among the cypresses, the iron crosses adorned with a weave of laurel and oak with the phrase Dulce et decorum est pro Patria mori engraved on them, seem like ghosts. In the antechamber there is a machine that seems to have come out of "2001: A Space Odyssey": "It's the security system" says Don Mirko "it drives me crazy every time". Beep beep beep beeeeeeeep. “We can go in, please after you.”

We enter the basilica, and right away I can't take my eyes off the wooden ceiling of the central nave with an overturned ship's hull, and I almost crash into a barrier. “Careful, look” says Don Mirko, inviting me to look down. Below us are the mosaics from when I was a child, the mosaics of the 4th century, the mosaics where Saint Ambrose, Saint Jerome, Saint Athanasius walked, and before the saints, where normal people walked too. Normal people, though, who must have had a very different relationship with the world around them: where did the idea of all these animal species, all these species of fish, cuttlefish, octopuses inhabiting the sea ("seventy-two, like the nations known at the time" says Don Mirko) come from? In the main scene depicted, with Jonah, why doesn’t the real protagonist seem to be Jonah but them, the fish, the animals, the species, the other species that are not humans? 

After thanking Don Mirko, I set off into the night towards the Roman river port. The cypress-lined road runs alongside the old docks which have collapsed over the centuries into a narrow canal, covered with lemna minor, where once there was a river, the Natisone, with a bed more than fifty meters wide. The door to the East, the way to the snow-capped mountains of Lebanon, the way to the lush delta of the Nile, is barred by a bolt, impossible to get through. When I turn around irritated, I notice next to me, under a capital, a photo of Pasolini visiting Aquileia. Without even doing it on purpose, fireflies appear above the stretch of duckweed. 


"Afroasiatic Aquileia" talk 

ANDREA BELLAVITE Theologian, essayist, journalist. He is director of the Society for the Preservation of the Basilica of Aquileia. Together with photographer Massimo Crivellari, he has published texts on the Isonzo, Karst and the Gorizia Mountains. For Ediciclo he contributed to the drafting of the guide Il Cammino Celeste (2013) and published the guide La Basilica di Aquileia (2017) and Lo spirito dei piedi (2016, 2023).

GIAN PAOLO GRI Anthropologist. He researches in the field and in archives knowledge that fuses the practical and the symbolic and refers to the relationship between tradition and modernity. His latest book: Cose dell'altro mondo (Forum 2024). He has been chairman of the scientific committee of Vicino/Lontano.

GIORGIO BANCHIG  Journalist.  He is the author of numerous publications on the history, culture and traditions of the Slovenes of Benecia / Slavia friulana aiming at the rediscovery of the dignity and richness of this small community.