A cultural project at the border

Recently, the municipality of Kartitsch and the municipality of Comelico Superiore have joined forces to ensure that the remains of the old country border between Tyrol and Venice is not forgotten. This brought with it numerous surprising discoveries.

There are likely to have been disputes about borders ever since the beginning of the human race. Where today’s disputes focus largely on oil, water or recklessly drawn borders of the past, many centuries ago the inhabitants of our homeland argued largely about grazing and pastures. Literally every square meter was necessary for survival.

An Interreg project in the border area between Val Pusteria and the Venetian Comelico is currently exploring this theme.

Reasons for endless s1753-media-files-foto-f027trife along the border between Tyrol and the Republic of Venice have existed since the Middle Ages. This border ran from the Carnic main ridge to Lake Garda and beyond.
To gain a few meters of grazing ground, boundary trees were felled, sentry boxes set on fire and animals confiscated. There were frequent brawls and even armed conflict.

In those days, borders were not yet mathematically determined lines. The precise boundary line was passed on from one generation to the next in the form of local memory. It is hardly surprising that the memory on one side of the border was frequently not the same as that on the other side! There was therefore plenty of potential for conflict.

In the 1740s a border commission consisting of representatives of the Dukes of Venice and Empress Maria Theresia began to solve the problem once and for all.
For the first time land surveyors set to work and in those days, Venice was leading the field.
It was thus possible to come to a peaceful arrangement for all disputed locations and to seal this with a border agreement signed in Rovereto. In 1753 and 1754 boundary stones were placed along the whole border from the Carnic main ridge to Lake Garda.

Many of these stones can still be found standing alone and forgotten on Alpine pastures or hidden in impenetrable woods.

A particularly well preserved section can be found on Passo Monte Croce, in the border region between Sesto, Kartitsch and Comelico Superiore. As there is already plenty of experience in cross-border collaboration on historical topics in this region, the Sesto Tourist Association, the municipality of Kartitsch and the municipality of Comelico Superiore joined forces last year to ensure that the remains of the old country border between Tyrol and Venice are not forgotten.
It was possible to raise finance via the Interreg V-A Programme Austria-Italy 2014-2020 (CLLD Dolomiti Live – Action 1 Small Projects Fund), and so work could begin this summer.

The first aim of the project is to ensure that the boundary stones are listed. These stones are owned jointly by the surrounding regions and there is as yet no precedent on the legal process of joint listing.
For this reason the Heritage Agencies of Venice, Trento, Bolzano and Innsbruck have joined the project as scientific partners. Together they will determine how the stones will be restored and what any copies of lost stones should look like.

In the first project phase archaeologists searched for all boundary stones in the Monte Croce region. They not only discovered traces from 1753, but also numerous positions from the First World War and the Valle Alpino, the World War II barricade that crosses the old border. Furthermore, remainders of a camp dating back to the Romans on Passo Monte Croce were excavated several years ago. This means that over 2000 years of history can all be traced here in a very small area.

To make it possible for others to experience the monuments and their history too, the project also includes plans of a border path. This will run from Kartitsch to the foot of the Dolomites and shall eventually be extended to Lake Garda. In Kartitsch, at the start of the path, there will be an explanatory exhibition, at the Roman camp on Passo Monte Croce a lookout tower, and along the path a suspension bridge.
Special care will be taken with the natural memorials along the trail such as waterfalls, ice caves, moors, rare plants and animals. To accomplish this, the South Tyrolean Department of Nature, Landscape and Regional Development will be involved right from the start.
The project is an active contribution to the European Year of Cultural History 2018.