16. Cemetery at Passo Pordoi, looking to the Tofana and Col di Lana


16 Pordoi CimiterioDolomites040

This is a photo Zardini uses in both guides to the Road. The mountains in the background, left of centre, and more visible in Zardini’s photo than my own, are the Tofana and the Col di Lana, themselves both particularly bloody WW1 battlegrounds.

Today the graves themselves at Passo Pordoi have gone, but amazingly, the old wooden crucifix, or a close copy of it, still stands at the very same spot as in the Zardini photo from about 90 years ago. The soil here is so thin that it has long ceased to show much evidence that this is where the cemetery stood, but Zardini’s photos, and numerous postcards attest its existence.

Browsing eBay about a year after my photo above was taken, I came by a pack of very small of 20 souvenir photos sold by G Ghedina, well known Cortina-based photographers, for the tourist market in the 1950s and 1960s. I have several of these that cover the Dolomite Road. The new pack contained this superb picture:

Pordoi001

It carries no date, although the printing quality suggests it to be quite late. The graves on which inscriptions can be read have unmistakably Austrian names and regiments, and most carry the dates in 1915 and 1916. Some time later, I found this card too. I believe it to be of around the same date, possibly earlier, and it is also by Ghedina. Sadly, neither carries a precise date. The burials would have been consolidated into the nearby ossuary, that was completed in 1959, so the cards will be 1950s at the latest and the photos themselves from sometime earlier:

Pordoi Cemetery detail001

A further purchase, after the postcards above, was this earlier view of the little cemetery. The card was printed in or around 1930, though never sent, so it carries no date or postmark. Nevertheless, I believe it is a photograph actually taken not long after the First World War. There are, for example, 1920s photographs showing power or telephone lines running just behind the cemetery, and this photo looks to pre-date those, although there are four fuzzy vertical lines on it that might just be evidence that the posts were airbrushed out to make the photo more attractive. The posts are, for example, very visible in several postcards under Photo 15 that also show the cemetery:

Pordoi Cemetery 1930001

It seems that the cemetery itself had gone by 1956. This next postcard is date-stamped 1 July 1956 and uses a photograph probably taken a few years before. The Pordoi Ossuary, which contains WW1 Austrian and WW2 German bones opened on the edge of the Pordoi area, about a mile from the Pass, in 1959.

Pordoi Lana 1956001

The card above is by the Schlern company from Bolzano, as is this one, which was dated by the sender and postmarked August 1958:

Pordoi 1958001

The view in the exact opposite direction appears in this postcard, sent in June 1961, according to the postmark:

Pordoi Cross 1961001



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