Sunday, August 26, 2012

Don Pietro Pappagallo

Today's photos:

1.    Don Pietro Pappagallo.

2.    The plaque bearing the inscription in memory of don Pappagallo on Via Urbana in the Monti neighborhood.

3.    The pietra d'inciampo memorial of don Pappagallo on the sidewalk in front of his house.

4.    The pietre d'inciampo in memory of Adolfo Mieli and Armando Mieli on Via  Natale del Grande in Trastevere.

5.    The pietra d'inciampo in honor of Michele Mieli, also on Via Natale del Grande.

6.    The tomb of don Pappagallo.

7.    The mausoleum where don Pappagallo and the other 334 martyrs are buried.




(For some helpful background on this topic, you can consult the "Sights of Rome" blog post of February 23, 2011, entitled Erich Priebke, as well as  Chapter 10, Le Fosse Ardeatine, in Rome: Sights and Insights).


Pietro Pappagallo (photo #1) was born in the small town of Terlizzi near Bari in southern Italy in 1888, the fifth of eight children.  Ordained a priest in 1915, he was transferred to Rome in 1925 where, among other duties, he served as assistant pastor at the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano and secretary to Cardinal Ceretti. He resided in the Monti neighborhood at Via Urbana 2, near the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.


During World War II, and especially during the Nazi occupation of Rome in 1943-44, don Pappagallo was active in assisting people who were being hunted down by the German SS forces. At great peril to himself, he took in, or aided in other ways, scores of people who were fleeing from the Germans: deserters, partisans, allies, and Jews who were trying to avoid deportation to the Nazi death camps.


On January 29, 1944, betrayed by an Italian collaborator, don Pappagallo was arrested by the SS and imprisoned in the infamous Nazi prison of Via Tasso which, ironically, was just a few yards from San Giovanni in Laterano where he served as assistant pastor. (Part of that former prison is now the Historic Museum of the Liberation of Rome). Here the priest was sentenced to death, and on March 24, 1944, he was included among the 335 Italians chosen by the Germans to be executed at the Fosse Ardeatine as a reprisal for an Italian partisan attack on German occupation forces the preceding day.


Don Pappagallo's ultimate sacrifice has been recognized in various ways. In 1997 a plaque (photo #2) was set up by the city of Rome on the façade of the house where he lived and where he was arrested at Via Urbana 2. The English translation of the inscription is as follows:


In this house, during the dark times of the Nazi occupation, shined brightly the generous heart of don Pietro Pappagallo, born at Terlizzi (Bari) on June 28, 1888, died in Rome at the Fosse Ardeatine on March 24, 1944.


He received with love the persecuted of every faith and condition even to the sacrifice of himself. He fell in the ultimate sign of the redemption and the pardon of God.


The city of Rome set this up on the fifty-third anniversary of the massacre to remind that those who have fallen for freedom are the living seeds of a better humanity.


In 1998 don Pappagallo was awarded the Medaglia d'oro al merito civile (Gold medal of civic merit) by the then president of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. In the Jubilee year of 2000 Pope John Paul II included him in the list of twentieth century martyrs for the Faith who are recalled in memorials in the Basilica of San Bartolomeo all'Isola.


But there is now a new and unique memorial to this heroic priest, which was inaugurated on January 9, 2012.  It is in the form of a Roman sampietrino (cobblestone) made of brass (photo #3) and inserted into the sidewalk in front of the building where he lived on Via Urbana. The English translation of it reads as follows:


Here lived don Pietro Pappagallo, born in 1888, arrested on January 29, 1944, assassinated on March 24, 1944 at the Fosse Ardeatine.


This unique marker is one of 27,000 which have been installed in seven European countries to recall the thousands of people who were executed by the Germans or who were deported to Nazi concentration camps for extermination. The markers are all placed in the sidewalk in front of the house where the victims lived.  The Italian term for these special markers is pietra d'inciampo, "a stone which one happens upon" (thus causing one to reflect on the incident). Thirty of these special sampietrini are being installed in each of six neighborhoods in Rome.  Besides the one to don Pappagallo in the Monti neighborhood, I have seen three others (photos 4 & 5) on Via Natale del Grande in my neighborhood of Trastevere. All three of the pietre refer to deportations to Auschwitz and bear the same family name, Mieli. The translations of them are as follows:


Here lived Adolfo Mieli, born in 1892, arrested on April 15, 1944, deported to Auschwitz, died in an unknown place on an unknown date.


Here lived Armando Mieli, born in 1928, arrested on April 28, 1944, deported to Auschwitz, died in an unknown place on an unknown date.


Here lived Michele Mieli, born in 1890, arrested on April 18, 1944, deported to Auschwitz, assassinated on June 30, 1944.


A curiosity


These pietre d'inciampo are prepared and placed in position by a single man, Gunter Deming, a German citizen who has decided to do his part to make sure the world does not forget. His mission is to keep before the eyes of the world the Nazi atrocities, especially (but not exclusively) the deportations to the concentration camps. The sampietrino in memory of don Pappagallo was included at the request of don Francesco Pesce, pastor of the church of Santa Maria ai Monti, near the house where don Pappagallo lived and where he was arrested.


The tomb of don Pappagallo (photo #6) and those of the other 334 martyrs are in the special mausoleum (photo #7) built after the War on the site of the slaughter. On the face of each tomb is carved the same information: name, age and profession. Many of the tombs, including don Pappagallo's, have the victim's photo above the inscription.   His inscription reads:







 Having done some research about don Pappagallo, now when I accompany visitors to the site I point out his tomb amidst the other 334 and tell them a little about him.  This concentration on one person serves to personalize the visit which is otherwise overwhelming and difficult to comprehend in the face of the mass burial of 335 people.


In Roberto Rossellini's dramatic post-war movie, Città Aperta, Italian actor Aldo Fabrizi interprets the role which represents the figure of don Pappagallo.


crystalclear said...

un'atrocitá di cui ci vergogneremo sempre, come italiani.
Bravo Vincent Drago, per ricordarci questa figura straordinaria di Don Pappagallo. Nessun perdono, mai, a quegli assassíni di innocenti.
"Caína attende ..." come scrisse Dante.

crystalclear said...

An atrocity that will always ashame us, as italians. Thank you Vincent Drago, for reminding us this extraordinary Don Pappagallo. No forgiveness, ever, for the murderers of innocents.
"Hell awaits..." as Dante wrote.

rocio martinez said...

Fui de vacaciones a Roma y pasé por las placas que recuerdan a Adofo y Armando Mieli y mi viaje se acabó en ese instante.
Gracias por que alguien nos haga recordar los nombres propios de todas aquellas personas que bien pudimos ser nostros

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