Several wars and natural disasters have destroyed, sometimes wiped out, the architectural and artistic feats of the peoples of all times. The memory is still painful of all the edifices and works of art being heavily shelled in Italy and all over Europe during the Second World War. But never before like in recent times have we seen the systematic endeavour to annul one's enemies by destroying their culture, their heritage, their remotest and deepest vestiges – in sum, what shapes the identity and the mind of people – in an attempt to carry out what Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, defines a “cultural cleansing”, the mirror of the worst ethnic cleansing. We still hold the vivid memory of the ferocious iconoclasm perpetrated in Palmyra; we still feel stricken and outraged by the horrible murder of Khaled al-Asaad, General Director of Antiquities of Palmyra, who was brutally beheaded on 18th August 2015 after he refused to leave the city and cooperate with the terrorists.

Opening on 2nd July as the first exhibition in Europe devoted to Palmyra after its recent devastation, “Portraits of Palmyra in Aquileia” marks another step forward, and a deeply symbolic one, in the path of “Wounded Archaeology”, the project Fondazione Aquileia launched in 2015 in collaboration with the Polo museale del Friuli Venezia Giulia with an exhibition of artefacts from the Bardo Museum of Tunis. The project is aimed at covering what has been happening for several years in the countries viciously ravaged by fundamentalist terror and at showing the works of art from these sites to the general public.

Curated by Marta Novello and Cristiano Tiussi, organized by Fondazione Aquileia in collaboration with the Polo Museale del Friuli Venezia Giulia and the National Archaeological Museum of Aquileia with the exhibits borrowed from the Terra Sancta Museum of Jerusalem, the Vatican Museums, the Capitoline Museums, the Museum of Civilizations-Oriental Art Collections “Giuseppe Tucci”, the Museum of Ancient Sculpture “Giovanni Barracco”, the Civic Archaeological Museum of Milan and a private collector, this new exhibition includes sixteen exhibits from Palmyra (some of which reunited for the first time after being dispersed in Western collections) and eight artefacts from Aquileia. The intention is to show that, while distant in space and style, the two cities share a common cultural background and similar self-representation and iconographic references.  Moreover, the exhibition will offer the chance to restore the objects borrowed from the Custody of the Holy Land with an action sponsored and supervised by the Polo museale del Friuli Venezia Giulia, so that, after the exhibition in Aquileia, the reliefs will be ready for display in the new setup of the Terra Sancta Museum.

The exhibition has been organized under the auspices of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO, the Italian Ministry of the Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, as well as thanks to the sponsorship of Fondazione Nazionale delle Comunicazioni, Gruppo Danieli, Friulana Gas, Cassa Rurale Fvg, and Confindustria Udine.

Insights into Palmyra

Pictures by Elio Ciol taken on 29th March 1996

Domus and Bishop’s palace

Aquileia – Free entrance


Portraits of Palmyra in Aquileia will be matched by the photography exhibition "Insights into Palmyra – pictures by Elio Ciol taken on 29th March 1996”  in the new archaeological site of the Domus and Bishop's Palace at Piazza Capitolo, consisting of twenty beautiful unpublished pictures taken by the Master before the recent destructions. The main square – Piazza Capitolo – will also be the stage of the sculpture “Zenobia's memories” by the contemporary Syrian artist Elias Naman, a generous loan by Gruppo Danieli. The statue's look is meant to recall the dramatic present times. Other related events include lectures by professor Daniele Morandi Bonacossi, teacher of Archaeology of the Near East at the University of Udine and the head of archaeological missions to Palmyra and Nineveh, Iraq (MAN, 2nd July at 17.30); by professor Paolo Matthiae, a distinguished archaeologist and author of the excavations of Ebla, Syria (26th July); by Brigadier-General Fabrizio Parrulli, Head of the Italian Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, who will speak about the illegal trade of antiquities, a well-known means of financing for terrorism (8th September).  

Moreover, the programme of Aquileia Film Festival will include, on 26th July, the shooting of the short “Quel giorno a Palmira” by Alberto Castellani, featuring an interview with Khaled al-Asaad, and, later in the summer, the Italian première of “Destruction of Memory” by Tim Slade.


Exhibition title: Portraits of Palmyra in Aquileia

Duration: 2nd July 2017 > 3rd October 2017

Location: National Archaeological Museum of Aquileia, Via Roma 1, 33051 - Aquileia (UD)

Opening times: Tuesdays to Sundays, from 8.30 am to 7.30 pm

Entrance fees: € 6 full price € 3 reduced price

Photography Exhibition: Insights into Palmyra – pictures by Elio Ciol taken on 29th March 1996

Location: Domus and Bishop's Palace, Piazza Capitolo, Aquileia.

Opening times: Tuesdays to Sundays, from 9 am to 7 pm

Free entrance