The Ossuary of Bicocca – Novara, Italy - Atlas Obscura

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The Ossuary of Bicocca

Novara, Italy

This Italian pyramid is said to hold the mingled remains of the dead from both sides of the Battle of Novara. 


In 1849 the (now) Italian city of Novara was the site of a battle against Austrian forces that left countless dead on both sides of the struggle. Now the ashes of soldiers from both sides are held in a stone pyramid guarded by a bronze bird.

There have been a number of skirmishes known as the “Battle of Novara” over the centuries, but the final such engagement took place in the mid-1800’s when an Austrian force tried to take the city, which was then in the Piedmont region. The Austrians succeeded in their assault and drove the Piedmontese back. However instead of coming under the heel of Austrian rule, the city was eventually incorporated into unified Italy. Politics aside, a number of men died on both sides of the battle. 

To remember both the battle and those who died, the Ossuary of Bicocca (Bicocca being a section of Novara) was built in the late 1870s. The bone house was built in the style of a tight Egyptian-esque pyramid with a bronze bird erupting out just over the door to the structure. While hard to confirm, the pyramid is said to contain the remains of both fighting forces as a sign of both respect and unification. 

Today, the pyramid sits on a grassy square in the otherwise Italianate surroundings of modern Novara seeming more that a little out of place. A large cross has since been delineated in the masonry blocks near the top of the pyramid above the bird giving the strange landmark a more properly funereal feel.      

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