On Saturday 10 February 2024, eightieth anniversary of the Allied bombing that struck the Propaganda Fide Summer Villa in the Papal Villas of Castel Gandolfo on 10 February 1944, claiming over five hundred victims among the refugees - the Governorate of Vatican City State, in the person of Cardinal President Fernando Vérgez Alzaga L.C., will launch the exhibition "Castel Gandolfo 1944".
Arranged in the new museum spaces of the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo, with the curatorship of Professor Luca Carboni of the Vatican Apostolic Archive, the historical-documentary exhibition is jointly organized by the Directorate of the Museums and Cultural Heritage and the Directorate of the Pontifical Villas, which thus intend to commemorate the victims of the tragic wartime event and, at the same time, to honour the extraordinary welcome, assistance and care provided by Vatican staff to the thousands of displaced people who, from 25 January 1944, crowded the spaces of the Holy See in Castel Gandolfo after the then-Director of the Pontifical Villas, Emilio Bonomelli, had opened the gates to those who, trusting in the protection offered by the extra-territoriality of places and in the Pope’s charity, fled from the American bombing of the Castelli Romani.
Through photographic images, historic footage, interviews with survivors and objects from the period, the exhibition “Castel Gandolfo 1944” presents, for the first time in one of the very places that were the theatre of the events narrated, a rich documentary heritage of the daily life, at times happy, at times painful, of this new “city of refugees”, who camped everywhere, in the rooms, halls, stairways, gardens or among the archaeological ruins of the cryptoporticus of the Villa of Domitian. In addition to the photographic evidence, there are also films and unpublished documents found buried among the papers of the Archive of the Pontifical Villas, recently recovered and reordered for the purpose of this initiative.
Access to the exhibition is free of charge and included in the entry ticket to the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo, which may be visited (with a guide or independently) together with the Garden of the Moor and the Secret Garden.
On the opening day of the exhibition, the streets of Castel Gandolfo and the Papal Villas themselves will be lined, as is customary every year on 10 February, with the Peace March in memory of the tragic event, organized by the towns of Castel Gandolfo and Albano Laziale together with the History and Memory of the Castelli Romani Association (formerly the Association of Families of the Victims of the bombing of Propaganda Fide).