In 1848 and 1866 the Italians fought two battles at Custoza, in northern Italy near Verona, during their struggle for independence against the Austrian Empire. An ossuary was built in 1879 to honor the thousands of soldiers who lost their lives and to enshrine their remains.
The Battle of Custoza in 1848 was fought on July 24th and 25th during the First Italian War of Independence between the Kingdom of Sardinia and the Austrian Empire. The Sardinian forces and the Austrian army clashed and both sides lost more than half their men, but the Austrians were victorious and regained control of the Italian provinces.
The Battle of Custoza in 1866 was fought on June 24th during the Third Italian War of Independence between the Italian Kingdom and the Austrian Empire. The Italians were defeated again despite having a larger force.
In 1879, an ossuary and chapel were built on Monte Belvedere, the highest spot in Custoza, to commemorate the battles and honor the fallen soldiers. The octagonal ossuary that holds these patriotic relics is the base of an obelisk that stands about 130 feet (40 meters) high.
The Ossuary of Custoza contains the skulls and long bones of more than 4,000 Italian and Austrian soldiers. The skulls are displayed on six shelves that line the walls of the ossuary, the long bones are stacked neatly in piles at the center, and there are shrines for the remains of the commanders.
Koudounaris, P. (2011). The Empire of Death. New York, NY: Thames and Hudson.