Hundreds of Italians who fell in the Battle of Santander were buried there

The Pyramid of the Italians, an exotic mausoleum from the Spanish Civil War

Many foreign volunteers fought on both sides of the Spanish Civil War. The largest group came from Italy.

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The Corpo Truppe Volontarie (CTV, Corps of Volunteer Troops) was the largest unit of foreign volunteers of that war. Some 78,000 Italians, mostly members of the Fascist Party, passed through its ranks, divided into three divisions that had the names Black Arrows, Blue Arrows and Green Arrows. Although their best-known episode was their defeat in the Battle of Guadalajara in March 1937, these Italian soldiers played a decisive role in several battles in which the national side won, including those fought in Malaga, Santander, Aragon and Catalonia.

The Pyramid of the Italians, with a large letter "M", possibly in allusion to the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (Photo: Iñigo Basaguren-Duarte).

The "Black Arrows" Division of the CTV fought in the Battle of Santander in August and September 1937. There, the Italian forces suffered almost 500 dead and more than 1,500 missing. A total of 384 Italians who fell in this battle were buried in a curious pyramid, designed by the Italian architect Pietro Giovanni Bergaminio and built in Puerto del Escudo, in the town of Valle de Valdebezana, north of the province of Burgos, almost on the border with the province of Santander. The entrance to the pyramid was decorated with a large letter "M". The exotic design of this mausoleum linked with the curious architectural fashions of Italian fascism.

The pyramid was built to bury the remains of hundreds of Italian combatants of the "Black Arrows" Division, who fell in the Battle of Santander during the Spanish Civil War (Photo: Iñigo Basaguren-Duarte).

For years, this pyramid, property of the Italian Republic, was periodically visited by Italian veterans of the Spanish Civil War, but on May 19, 1971 a serious accident occurred in which a bus full of veterans left the road on a curve, falling down a ravine. Twelve of the bus occupants died. Because of that accident, five years later the Italian government proceeded to move the remains of the soldiers buried in the pyramid. The majority of those buried (268) were transferred to Italy, and the rest were transferred to the Italian Military Mausoleum of the Church of San Antonio de Padua, in Zaragoza.

The niches that housed the remains of the Italian soldiers buried here. In addition, the pyramid has an underground crypt in which 12 officers were buried (Photo: Iñigo Basaguren-Duarte).

This funerary monument has been the subject of controversy for years. Due to its abandonment and the fact that it was already empty, it began to deteriorate due to vandalism and the harsh weather conditions of that place. There were proposals to demolish it, but finally, in February 2023, the regional government of Castile and León declared it a site of cultural interest, due to its historical and architectural value.

You can see here a video published this Monday on the channel Los Paseetes de Yogui, with beautiful aerial shots of this pyramid and images of its interior:


Main photo: Luis Fermín Turiel Peredo.

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