The cemetery of the Victims of Vajont is in Fortogna, a village in the municipality of Longarone, where the day after the tragedy a sacred area was designated as the burial site where the still approximate number of Vajont Victims would find their rest. On a consecrated wheat field, long burial graves were promptly dug to lie the coffins as they were taken to the site.
The bodies buried in the cemetery of Fortogna, before its recent renovation, were 1464, out of which only 703 had been identified; the remaining bodies couldn’t be given a name either because no relatives had survived, or because the state in which they were found didn’t allow their identification. On each burial grave a wooden cross was temporarily positioned, then replaced with a white marble one.
The present monumental cemetery, opened after its renovation on June 19th, 2004, looks like an immense garden, an endless lawn, with 1910 white marble memorial stones, one for each Victim of the tragedy, regardless of their actual recovery, identification or exactburial place. The cemetery renovation works gave the opportunity to move to Fortogna the remains of other victims recovered and buried in other places.
Besides significant works on the burial ground, renovation works also included the building of an entrance portal. On the outside a glass plaque welcomes visitors with a memorial sentence translated into 12 languages, that reads:”at first the roar, then the silence of death but never the oblivion of memory”. The portal ground floor hosts a collection of daily-life objects and documents recovered among the debris. The portal upper floor is a terrace onto the burial ground with a collection of pictures retracing the history of the cemetery and 11 metal plaques listing the names of the Victims in alphabetical order.
Furthermore, relevance is added to the cemetery by a three sculpture group made of Carrara white marble by local sculptor Franco Fiabane. The first sculpture group commemorates migrants who returned to their homeland after hearing the news of the tragedy. The second is a tribute to rescuers. The final one is dedicated to never born children.
The visit of Pope John Paul II to the cemetery on July 12th, 1987 was among the most noteworthy.
On the 40th anniversary from the tragedy the cemetery was declared National Monument by the then President of the Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
The cemetery can be reached from Longarone southward through the provincial road no. S.S. 51, in the direction of the A27 motorway, following signs at the hamlet of Fortogna. Side entrances are always open to enter the burial field; the entrance portal is open to the public according to an opening schedule available on www.prolocolongarone.it.