The opulence and poverty of the Shrine of Italian Victories
Amongst the rooms of the Shrine of Italian Victories (in Italian ‘Vittoriale degli Italiani’) – the spectacular abode of Gabriele d’Annunzio in Gardone Riviera, overlooking the Garda Lake – there is the so-called “Room of the Leper”. It is a sort of ‘mise en abyme’ in the vast estate where the poet retired in 1921: crammed with objects, it shows a painting representing Saint Francis embracing a leper, who is none other than D’Annunzio himself. Also, when accessing the Vittoriale, the two entrance doors depict Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Clair.
Thus it is the two young saints who committed to poverty that welcome visitors in a prodigal treasure chest of pathways, halls and corridors where an incredible amount of artifacts, big and small, were amassed during a life of extraordinary gestures, like symbols of the proud aspiration to heroically surpass human limits.
The indoor and outdoor wonders of the Vittoriale, built between 1921 and 1938, include greenhouses and gardens, elegant shoes and fountains, ships and military airplanes used by the poet in his war endeavors, precious sculptures, antique and modern frescoes, golden gates, libraries, amphitheatres, Italian cars from the beginning of the 1900s, images and symbols from various religions… and then Saint Francis and Saint Clare.
Opulence and poverty, pride and modesty. A cornucopia of emotions that strikes the balance between materialistic desires and ‘contemptus mundi’.