Interactive Map Places of memory related
to serious human rights violations

Mausoleo Fosse Ardeatine

Theme: Genocide and/or Mass Crimes


Via Ardeatina, 174







Theme: Genocide and/or Mass Crimes

Purpose of Memory

To honor the memory of victims of the massacre in Fosse Ardeatine by the Nazi army.

Institutional Designation

Mausoleo Fosse Ardeatine

Date of creation / identification / declaration


Public Access


Location description

Mausoleo Fosse Ardeatine, located in the south of the city of Rome, contains the bodies of the 335 victims of the mass killing carried out by the German occupation troops during the Second World War. The memorial space is composed by a network of tunnels in pozzolana caves where the massacre was carried out, together with works by Italian architects and artists: the gates, a statue and a monolith. The main gate, work of the sculptor Mirko Basaldella, shows a dramatic tangle of tortured bodies. On the left side of the entrance forecourt stands the huge six meter high statute of travertine stone, work of the sculptor Francesco Coccia, called The three ages of men. The great monolith is a gigantic tombstone of reinforced cement, hollow inside, placed over the tombs. Behind the Mausoleo there is a museum that reconstructs, by using documents, books and articles, images and objects, the historical context of the massacre. The Fosse Ardeatine mass killing is remembered every year in Rome, through official ceremonies.

During the Second World War (1939-1945), the invasion of British and American troops in Sicily accelerated the overthrow of dictator Benito Mussolini in July 1943. While the new Italian Government signed an armistice with allies, the German army occupied Italy and managed to control Rome and great part of the country until June 1944.

On March 23, 1944, 150 German soldiers marched through Vía Rasella in Rome, when some partisans of the Patriotic Action Groups (PAG), a movement opposing fascism, launched an explosive artifact that caused the death of 33 soldiers. As retaliation, the Nazi army ordered to kill ten people for each dead German soldier. Since there were not enough Italian prisoners to reach that total number, they used common inmates, groups of Jews who were about to be deported to concentration camps and other, random people, even teenagers as young as 15 years old. On March 24, 1944, 335 men were transferred in trucks to the Fosse Ardeatine located in the south of Rome. Inside the caves, officials of the SS paramilitary unit shot the hostages. Then, the caves were mined and the entrance sealed.

Until the end of the war, the German SS divisions committed other great mass killings in the north of the peninsula, such as the killing of more than 500 people in Stazzema, in Tuscany, and 1,000 people in the surroundings of Marzabotto, near Bologna.

Herbert Kappler and Erich Priebke, two of the responsible parties for the massacre of Fosse Ardeatine, were convicted to life sentence by the Italian justice; the former in 1948 and the latter, in 1998.

The Fosse Ardeatine Massacre had a great impact on the Italian peninsula, due to the heterogeneity of the victims, who came from all social classes and different parts of the country.

After the liberation of Rome, the allied authorities, in collaboration with the Italian administration, created the Ardeatine Cave Commission, chaired by the Mayor of Rome, for investigation and burial of the victims’ bodies. At the same time, the National Association of Italian Martyr Families for Homeland Freedom (ANFIM being the acronym in Italian) was created to identify and provide a dignified burial to the victims. At the beginning of September 1944, the Municipality of Rome announced a bid for the construction of a memorial monument for the victims of the massacre. In the subsequent years, two teams led by the architects Mario Fiorentino and Giuseppe Pierugini, and which included the sculptors Francesco Coccia and Mrko Basandella, worked in a joint project. The construction work started in November 1947 and on March 24, 1949, five years after the massacre, the mausoleum was inaugurated. The process to bury the victims was completed in 1951.

The caves where the massacre happened contain artistic and architectural works. The main gate, which is six meters wide and occupies the whole entrance to the caves, was built in bronze, by the Italian artist Mirko Basaldella. The huge statue that remembers the massacre shows the figure of three men in different stages of life, with their hands tied, and is called The three ages of men, in direct allusion to the characteristics of the victims, all of them males aged between 15 and 74.

On the left side of the entrance to the caves, there is a great monolith. It is a gigantic tombstone placed over the tombs where the 335 victims of the massacre are buried. It is a concrete block resting on six short pillars that cuts through the darkness of the grave cavity, while preserving the sensation of imminent weight. At the end of the tunnels, there is the area where the killings took place and where the bodies were thrown away thereafter.

The massacre anniversary became one of the main commemorations of the civic calendar of the Italian Republic. Every year, a mass is celebrated to commemorate the victims and is followed by official speeches. The ANFIM association permanently promotes guided tours to the mausoleum for the general public, but specially for students.