Italy / Monument

Piazzale Loreto




Piazzale Loreto (Loreto Square), today one of the city's traffic hubs, played a central role in the history of the war in Milan. Here, on 10 August 1944, a massacre of civilians took place. And here, precisely in remembrance of that massacre, the partisans brought the corpses of Mussolini and the murdered fascist party officials to Dongo, hung them by their feet from the pylon of a petrol station and exposed them to public ridicule. This scene displays the violence of the civil war, and also represents a gruesome rite of atonement.

Piazzale Loreto is a square in the north-eastern part of Milan, in Venezia district. Following an attack in Viale Abruzzi on 8 August 1944, the commander of Milan's security service Theodor Saevecke ordered a reprisal, carried out by fascist militiamen of the 'Ettore Muti' legion. They took 15 partisans from San Vittore prison and shot them at dawn on 10 August on the pavement between Viale Andrea Doria and Corso Buenos Aires. The corpses were left exposed to the sun of the hot summer day until around 8pm for intimidation purposes. A sign described the partisans shot as 'murderers'.

Not least in order to avenge this massacre, the partisans decided to bring the bodies of Benito Mussolini and Claretta Petacci, who had been shot at Giulino di Mezzegra on 28 April, and those of the 16 fascist party officials killed at Dongo on the same day, to the city. They were unloaded at Piazzale Loreto around 3am. Starting at 7am, a crowd thronged the square to witness the gruesome spectacle and revile the bodies. At around 11am, the fire brigade decided to hoist the seven best-known corpses onto the roof of the Standard Oil petrol station, hanging them upside down. Around 12 noon, the body of Achille Starace was also added.

There are numerous photographic series of the events, such as those taken by Christian Schiefer and Luigi Ferrario, and film footage from the Americans, later included in Combat films, or those shot by Carlo Nebbiolo of Publifoto.

In the early afternoon, a team of partisans from the 'Crespi' brigade, under orders from the command, under pressure from the allied authorities, recovered the corpses and transported them to the nearby morgue in Piazzale Gorini. In the evening, the CLN issued a bulletin in which it took responsibility for the incident, calling Mussolini's execution necessary to 'mark the end of a historical period of shame and crimes' and usher in 'the advent of a new Italy'.

In the post-war period, the square was briefly dedicated to the 'fifteen martyrs' of 1944, before returning to its previous name. The 1944 massacre is commemorated by a monument inspired by the iconography of Saint Sebastian, designed by Giannino Castiglioni and placed in 1960 on the corner of Viale Andrea Doria.

Piazzale Loreto, Milan, 20131