Jana Palach monument
Rome, Piazza Jan Palach
“Radiant sky with hot days
solid stone pedestal
such is the blue of the sky painted by God
thither your arms rise
your fingertips touch the sky”
From the poem by Anastáz Opasek Monument to Jan Palach in Rome
The response in Italy to the self-immolation of Jan Palach was strong. A fund raising campaign to erect a monument to Jan Palach had been launched already by the end of January 1969 at the initiative of the Rome newspaper Il Tempo. The campaign was successful, and a statue was ceremonially unveiled a year later. A speech was delivered by the mayor of Rome and a Member of Parliament, Clelio Darida, who attended Palach’s funeral in Prague as the head of the Rome delegation.
On the occasion of the unveiling of the monument on Sunday 18 January 1970, the square where the statue was placed was renamed in honour of Jan Palach (the original name was “The 17th Olympic Games Square”). Neighbouring streets are named after countries that participated in the summer Olympic Games in 1960 – one of the streets is named after Czechoslovakia.
The monument is the work of the Italian sculptor Vittorio di Colbertaldo (1902–1979). The bronze sculpture is placed on a travertine pedestal and shows a young figure surrounded by flames with hands raised towards the sky. The dynamic design of the statue corresponds to the modern architecture of the neighbouring buildings originally built as a part of the Olympic village.
The square in Rome is not the only place named after Palach in Italy. There are ten streets, a college campus in Venice, and monumental stairs in Trieste.