It was 1921, and work had just begun to rebuild the Trentino region, recently liberated from Austrian rule and united with the Italian state, while the open wounds of the Great War had not yet completely healed. Many people from Rovereto returning from exile in refugee camps received their first assistance from a Rovereto priest, Don Antonio Rossaro, who organised a fleet of vehicles to bring food and blankets from Rovigo. Alongside the laborious task of rebuilding homes and public spaces destroyed by the bombing as well as the economic and political life of the region, a "cult of remembrance" also grew up, in tribute to the fallen. And so in just a few years, all the towns involved in the war saw the construction of war cemeteries, mausoleums, ossuaries and other features geared to remembrance and thus to rebuilding national identity.

In Rovereto, mementoes, objects and witness accounts of a war whose echoes were still resounding were assembled and preserved as exhibits in the first and largest Italian War Museum, housed in the city's Venetian castle.

The museum came into being not only to document the First World War - considered a kind of "freedom struggle" by an oppressed people - but also as a “custodian” of the Italian national identity. Indeed, the intention of the founders (former irredentists with strong anti-Austrian views) was to celebrate the glories of the fatherland by presenting them to the population as an inspirational model.

The idea of establishing a War Museum came from a group of Rovereto citizens: Giuseppe Chini, Giovanni Malfer, Antonio Piscel and Don Rossaro himself, and was formally approved in a meeting of the organising committee on 23 August 1920. The work to redevelop the castle was funded by the Municipality in January 1921, and on 12 October of the same year, the King and Queen of Italy visited the first rooms on the occasion of the museum's solemn inauguration. Don Rossaro himself describes how his idea came about in his book La Campana dei Caduti, in an extract from his journal entitled “Albo storico della Campana dei Caduti”.

On 5 May 1921, a few months prior to his transfer to Rovereto, the priest was strolling under the Arco della Pace in Milan, and he read in a newspaper that at that very moment all over France, thousands of cannons were being fired to mark the centenary of Napoleon's death: "Under the roof of the historic arch, I was absorbed in thought of the glory of that age, when all of a sudden I raised my eyes to see a flaming sunset sky, so beautiful over towards Mount Resegone, and I was surprised by the sound of the Ave Maria from a nearby convent. Immediately my heart was overwhelmed by a tumult of arms and sacred song, a clash of two worlds, that of War and that of Peace.


In the distance, the thunder of the cannon dispersed in the vastness of the horizon; nearby, the peal of church bells spread through the mysterious regions of my heart". And hence the idea of a bell was born, cast from the metal of cannons , to toll for all the fallen, all the victims of war. More austere and less poetic is the description he gives in a diary dated 5 May 1921: "A splendid sunset at the Arco della Pace in Milan. The warm, bright air carries the reverberation of a distant peal of bells. Couldn't we consider a peace bell at the castle of Rovereto? Back home, I continue to think about it. Either a silver bell for peace, or a great bell for the fallen. The Bell of the Fallen will be the largest in Trentino". A Bell that would weight between 3.5 and 4 tonnes: the largest in Trentino, indeed. His idea developed, and the 4-tonne Bell

soon grew to 5 tonnes and then 7, later rising to 9 and finally to 11 tonnes.

The project was presented to the board of directors of the War Museum at their meeting on 20 May 1921: "The President explains Don Rossaro's scheme to obtain from the mothers and widows of the Fallen a great bell to be placed in the Castle which every evening will ring the Ave Maria for our Fallen. To this end, considering the insufficient strength of the present tower, another should be built, in the same architectural style as the Castle, and able to withstand the weight of the Bell…" The idea was not universally well-received, but Don Rossaro did not lose heart.

He set up an Honorary Committee consisting of leading individuals and a “Pro Campana dei Caduti” cExecutive Committee formed of Don Rossaro himself and headed by Augusto Sartorelli, president of the Castel Dante Ossuary and others, including Luigi Paoli, director of the local Cassa di Risparmio, municipal councillor Osvaldo Masotti, doctor Ezio Dusini, engineer Francesco Tommazzolli, accountant Melchiade Endrizzi and architect Giovanni Tiella. A few months after obtaining the backing of the Queen Mother Margherita of Savoy, talks began with the nations formerly at war.

Among the first to respond were the Italian, French and Czechoslovakian Ministers of War. At the same time, Don Rossaro launched a national fundraising campaign from the pages of the “Alba Trentina” magazine.