The souls of the peoples are united through the International Telegraph Union.
In 1908, the delegates at the International Telegraph Conference in Lisbon approved a project to erect a monument in Berne, Switzerland, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the International Telegraph Union (ITU) in 1915. Following an international competition, a design by the Italian sculptor Giuseppe Romagnoli (1872-1966) from Bologna was selected and work began on the monument. Completion of the project was postponed due to the First World War, but the monument was finally erected and inaugurated on Saturday 16 December 1922.
(Photo: D. Flubacher)
The overall theme of the monument is that “the souls of the peoples are united through the International Telegraph Union.” The central figure represents the International Telegraph Union, whose outstretched arms unite the surrounding figures representing themes such as present and future knowledge, family, labour, suffering and fertility.
||Helvetiaplatz, Berne [click for map]|
- figures: bronze
- base: gray granite from Castione, Switzerland
|Meaning of the figures:
- seated female figure: The central figure represents the International Telegraph Union. Her expression represents telegraphy, while her outstretched arms holding hands with the 2 figures from the side groups express the idea of “union”.
- standing male figures beside the 2 blocks: one man holds a closed book symbolizing the knowledge already acquired by past generations; the other man holds an open book which represents the scientific discoveries to be made in the future.
- other figures: The other figures represent Charity, Fertility, Sorrow, Creative work, Family, Defense of justice and of the oppressed, and Workers carrying out their arduous task.
|Inscription on the blocks:
- left block: Union télégraphique internationale fondée à Paris en 1865 sur l’initiative du Gouvernement français (International Telegraph Union founded in Paris in 1865 on the initiative of the French Government).
- right block: Erigé par décision de l’Union télégraphique prise à la Conférence internationale de Lisbonne 1908 (Erected by decision of the International Telegraph Union taken at the International Conference of Lisbon, 1908).
Centenary Addition: 1965
In 1965, as part of the celebrations commemorating the 100th anniversary of ITU, the Swiss Government invited the delegates at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Montreux to a special ceremony in Berne on 8 October for the unveiling of a bronze plate bearing the names of the Member States of the Union as of 17 May 1965. This tablet was affixed to the back of the ITU monument, replacing the original inscriptions, which included a list of the 20 countries that signed the first International Telegraph Convention in 1865, as well as a list of the Member States of the Union in 1908 (the year of the Lisbon Conference).
(Photo: D. Flubacher)
In 2002-2003, the Swiss Confederation, through the Office fédéral des constructions et de la logistique, undertook a thorough restoration of the monument. The underlying supporting framework was repaired; the bronze figures were cleaned and restored; and the granite forming the base and fountain was repaired or replaced as necessary.
The monument stands in Helvetiaplatz, at the end of the Kirchenfeld bridge and in front of the castle-like building of the Musée d’histoire de Berne, reminding all who see it of the important role of telecommunications in connecting the world’s people – wherever they live and whatever their means.