Much has been written about the fascist symbolism, and I will not try to give any exhaustive presentation of the subject here.
However, I would like to point out a few key symbols, and explain some of the rhetorics connected with them.
Like other totalitarian regimes of the 20th century, Fascist Italy too was heavily influenced by nationalist tendencies.
The regime therefore naturally played on the glory of Ancient Rome, on Romanità and Italianità, - and on Mediterraneità.
The Italian farmer, the Italian natural resources and building traditions were emphasized.
Thus the way was open for the "Academic" architects, inspired as they were of the Novecento (1900) style,
a somewhat classizising style building on tradition and romanità. But, as among others Torsten Bergmark has
pointed out, there was also room for the modern movement in the Italian fascist state.
He thinks this
is due to the strong position the futurists had in the early phases of fascism (and a joint background,
sharing many of the same sources of inspiration).1 That sounds quite plausible. Others have emphasized that
the fascists tried to include everyone in the State, and thus to eliminate all resistance.
the spokesmen for modern trends, too, they thus ensured that these people became good and loyal fascists.
(Cf. Mussolini's famous speech at La Scala in Milan on October 28, 1925, where he said: "Our formula is this:
Everything within the State, nothing outside of the State, nothing against the State."
Probably a mixture of these explanations is true.
The truth is seldom simple, but a complex of elements
As is a well-known fact, the fascist symbol par excellence, is the lictor's ax.
This ax has been used in both Europe and the US throughout history, and it is originally the weapon that the
Roman lictors carried.
It is a symbol of power, and to the Italians it played on their history as well,
eager as they were to tie the bonds to their once so glorious past, and prepare the way for the new and
glorious Empire -- an Empire Mussolini hoped would measure up to his hero Augustus' Empire.
The lictor's ax came to be used everywhere, as columns on exhibition buildings, or towers on the
different buildings of the regime (most typical the children's colonies and the case del fascio) could be
shaped as this ax.
In addition, reliefs, fountains, bells, walls and so forth were decorated with this
symbol. The lictor's ax came to be to the Italian fascists what the swastica and the eagle were to the
Another popular symbol was the tower. The tower has a long history in Italy, and its connotations are many:
power, fortress, solidity, money, history. All lovers of Italy know the towers of San Gimignano, or the
town hall tower in Piazza della Signoria in Florence. In 1932 the fascists decided that all case del fascio
should be provided with a tower,2 something that resulted in many and highly different interpretations and
variations of the theme, from the more solid, sturdy Roman fortress-like tower of the Casa del Fascio in Sabaudia
to slender shapes like the stele flagpole on the town's Opera Nazionale Balilla-building. Or what about Sabaudia's
only "grattacielo," the ONC headquarters?
This text is the result of two years of intense (and expensive) studies of Hanne Storm Ofteland.
That means that this information is not to be used without a written permission from her.
If nothing else is written: Hanne Storm Ofteland © 1999, 2000, 2001, text and layout.
Jan Valentin Saether © 1999, 2000, photographs. All rights reserved.