This essay reconstructs the history of the most ambitious memorial project in memory of the fallen of the Italian-Ottoman war (1911-1912): the Henni ossuary. After describing other similar initiatives carried out by both the Army and the civilians during the conflict, the authors focus on the activity of the Henni ossuary Committee and its promoters: Angelo De Gubernatis and Mario De Feis, who were able to gain popular and parliamentary consensus, but were unable to achieve their goal. The project was left unfinished; nevertheless, the whole affair sheds new light upon a topic so far unknown, as well as on the strong connections between religion and civil religion on the eve of the Great War. The Italian Catholics’ contribution to the ossuary went far beyond national loyalty: wishing to overcome their unpatriotic reputation, several clergymen and laymen celebrated the armed nation and proclaimed the "crusade" against the enemy, just like they would do in 1914-1918.
Keywords: Italian-Ottoman war, nationalism, catholicism, civil religion, war memorials, colonialism