The oldest monument in Corsica …

ancien monument Patrimoniu di CorsicaDating back 2000 years, this column was begun by the Romans on the small, lost island of San Bainzo and was erected on November 11th, 1932 in commemoration of the children of Bonifacio, who had died for their country during the Great War. It is more than likely that this monument is the oldest in Corsica, as is indicated on the engraved inscriptions on a marble slab, sealed on the upper pedestal. It is an impressive granite column, coarsely cut, on a small island belonging to the Lavezzi archipelago – San Bainzo, very close to the large Cavallo island, with which it was probably connected to by a paved passage in the shallower part, today submerged, from the small inlet between the island “satellite” (‘l’isurotu‘) and from the mother island, Cavallo.

This column measures 9m in height, and weighs an incredible 20 tons!

But, how in heavens name were they capable of transporting such a mastodon to Bonifacio ?

Fortunately, a now deceased fellow citizen related the proceedings of this intervention. It all began in 1932, when a committee was created to look after the erection of a monument for the dead, from the 1914-18 war. Here, acknowledgement can be given to the committee for having thought of using one of the numerous fine columns of grey granite, cut they say, by Roman slaves (some say they were Corsican), who were at that moment on the small island. However, this was not a simple act. It was now necessary to go from simply wishing it to achieving it – for, although the idea was original, the undertaking was nonetheless colossal. Consequently, a powerful tug was sent from Toulon to Bonifacio, along with a barge crane. The column was brought back on logs, and left at the quays of the Senura in March, 1932. On April 20th, 1932, the slow procedure started, and back then, the road did not have tarmac. It was replaced on the logs, in order to facilitate the progressive advancement. Huge steel cables were used, and dispositions had been taken to ensure the security of the curious passers-by. The most difficult problem here, on this uphill road, was the down slope turn at San Roccu, where the column could have toppled over at any moment.
Remained the last phase, oh so delicate, of lifting the weight of 20 tons, where any improvisation of any sort was immediately excluded.
Capstans were installed at the back of tractors, whilst the top of the column was held up by cables. The scene was impressive and a very large crowd of curious onlookers gathered. Everyone held their breath. Suspense … Slowly, the column rose, slipped to its base, flipped, got up, waddled right and left looking for his balance and finally stopped. Patrimoniu di Corsica monument ancien de Corse
Suddenly, a thunderous applause, mixed with cries of joy rang, hats flew, shots rang out, an old woman made ​​the sign of the cross while another wiped a few tears. Then everyone sang a song of victory. The company then completed the finishing touches, and the
giant stone was surrounded by a beautiful circular gallery. Its base, as high as the arising part over the road was consolidated by beautiful sealed stones; big iron chains were placed to garnish the top and a beautiful marble slab floor with the names of all the soldiers who died during the Great War and another bronze marked “Bonifacio, for its’ dead.”

On 11 November 1932, 7 months after the insertion of the giant, the inauguration of the monument was to be held in the presence, of course, of a big crowd. The Mayor, city council, civil and military personalities, and even school children were present. Even the prefect had come specially from Ajaccio. All ending up with a party at City Hall.
One can easily imagine that with severe storms, certain cargos had to experience significant losses. How many of these columns lie for centuries in the blind ocean swallowed forever ?

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