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San Martino della Battaglia, Italy

Ossario di San Martino

The skulls and bones of thousands of soldiers line the walls of this small Italian chapel. 

The Ossario di San Martino is a small chapel that houses over 1,200 skulls and over 2,000 bones that belonged to fallen soldiers who fought in a key 19th-century European conflict.

The battle of San Martino was waged in 1859 and was a significant moment in the Second Italian War of Independence. The kingdoms of Piedmont and Sardinia, which came together with the help of the French army, waged war to resist the occupying Austrian forces. It was one of the bloodiest conflicts fought by northern Italians.

Originally built as a chapel, the Ossario di San Martino was later converted into an ossuary, which was opened in 1870. Thousands of bones and skulls from soldiers from both sides, exhumed from the mass graves in which they were buried, rest in a display behind the altar. The exterior walls contain plaques commemorating the fighters from different cities and regions who took part in the war.

The Ossario is tucked away in a quiet spot in an area not often frequented by many tourists, so there is a good chance you will have it all to yourself. There is a beautiful park next to the chapel that is ideal for picnics, and the Torre di San Martino is just at the end of the road. Adults can climb to the top for a beautiful view for €5 per person.

Know Before You Go

Driving Directions:

From the A4 highway, take the Sirmione exit. As soon as you leave the the toll booth, turn left to drive south on Via Colli Storici (SP 13). At the next traffic circle, take the first exit (turn right). There will be a sign for the Ossario and the Torre di San Martino (which is just a little farther up the road). There is a free gravel parking lot on the right side of the road immediately before the Ossario. Entrance to the Ossario is free.