The Reale Cappella Espiatoria di Monza is a museum and a monument. In my opinion it represents, stealing Gaetano Bresci’s words, the point where two principles collided: on the one hand the idea of the sovereign and on the other the idea of the anarchist. Two errant particles that found exactly in that point, at the base of the Great Alabaster Crosses, the place and the moment for mutual annihilation. As in any particle collision, the two initial elements vanish, disintegrated in the impact, and new ones are born, each with independent trajectories. The Reale Cappella Espiatoria, in this sense, acts as a geo-locator with respect to the point where this collision occurred: the point of origin of alternative further reasoning.
What was meant to be a peremptory call for atonement (at least in the mind of the Queen, who wanted to build this monument immediately after the death of her husband the King Umberto I) quickly changed its guise by allowing the thousands of new individual trajectories to move from that point. This process of changing meaning occurred through successive layers of continual denials of the original meaning. Beginning with the alleged inscription by Benito Mussolini “monument to Gaetano Bresci,” passing through continuous inscriptions praising the anarchist, to the proposal to preserve one of these grafiti still present on one of the walls, the monument’s user community and popular sense have repeatedly provided for a sort of metaphorical cancellation of the meaning of this monument itself. Unlike a far more radical attack, however, such as that of ISIS in Palmyra in 2017, which involved the disappearance of the original artifact, or to recent episodes of destruction of statues related to the colonial past and then the total cancellation of the actual presence of the work, in our case the Sacconi-Cirilli (the architects who built it) monument has remained standing.