Simone  Alverà and his cross, the Cross of Gris

Today, I’d like to share the story of the Cross of Gris with you. This is a true tale, an incident from many years ago, with details known to only a few.
However, I must correct myself; I won’t be the one narrating this story. Instead, Luca Dell’Osta has graciously allowed me to publish an article he wrote a few years ago.

I’ve been intrigued by the events surrounding the Cros del Grìš for some time. While my initial research wasn’t very extensive, I was curious and eager to learn more. Fortunately, by pure chance, I recently stumbled upon Luca’s writing. Although I don’t know Dell’Osta personally, our conversation revealed him to be quite helpful, and I appreciate that.

While many hikers have passed near the Cross of Gris, not everyone is familiar with its history. I believe it would be interesting to share this story online.

For those unfamiliar with this location, simple directions can guide you there. Starting from Malga Ra Stua, follow the road leading to Sennes until you quickly reach Campo Croce. At an altitude of approximately 1760m, turn right (east) onto the CAI path 26, which ascends steeply until it reaches around 2190m, where you’ll find the Cross of Gris.
Alternatively, for a more challenging route, the “Path 0” also leads to the Cross of Gris.

Now, let’s make space for Luca’s captivating story.

Cross of Griš

by Luca Dell’Osta

This is an authentic tale.
A narrative of places, people, and intense emotions. A story passed down through generations, fading into the mists of time amid forests and high mountain pastures. Today, only a cross, a bronze plaque, a breathtaking view, and the echo of a scream remain as reminders. The scream blends with the sound of heavy rain, descending to wet the rocks, slipping through the cracks, breathing life into pastures and the earth parched by the ferocious summer sun. A few lines in parish registers, seemingly surreal, violently thrust us back into reality, mirroring the violence of the story. An empty box beside her name; “died by killing” is what the register states next to his name. Two words in an old and dusty archive serve as a stark reminder that this is a true story.

It is 1848. The revolutionary winds are about to sweep across Europe, weakening the great ruling houses. The failure of the Restoration and the policies of the Congress of Vienna mark the triumph of the ideals of the French Revolution and Napoleon in the Old Continent. In a few months nothing will be the same as before.cros del gris

In the north, on the border between the Habsburg Empire and the former Serenissima Republic of Venice, in a valley seemingly untouched by the fight for freedom, two young people reside. Anna Maria lives with her family, assisting her mother with household chores. She is young and beautiful. Simone Alverà, known as Griš, “grey” in the local dialect of Ampezzo, is a robust young man, a bit rough like all mountain dwellers, a shepherd on the pastures of Foses. The two cross paths, love blossoms, and they marry within a few weeks, together with other couples, on February 29, 1848, just before Lent, a period when canon law prohibits marriages. February 29th is an unusual day—it occurs only once every four years! In Ampezzo, it will be remembered, much like Europe will recall 1848. It is the end of February, and in the distance, the roar of cannons and rifles is already audible. In a few months nothing will be the same as before.

Snow falls gently. The vibrant green of the Foses meadows transforms into a white blanket covering pastures, rocks, paths, stones, and plants. The small lake is adorned with a thin sheet of ice.
Life persists as marmots sleep in their burrows, anticipating spring. As the falling snow gradually thins, two small chamois emerge in the distance, leaving clear footprints in the fresh snow.

Then the wind arrives, sweeping away snow, clouds, the frost. The spring is approaching.

“Love each other, but don’t turn love into a bond,” the Lebanese poet Gibran Khalil would later write. Anna Maria and Simone love each other deeply and decide to live together. However, the marital connection is challenging, as the times are different from today. Simone is a good man, but he finds himself arguing with his wife over every trivial matter. He is a man of integrity, a true shepherd, a mountain man who is at a loss on how to keep his wife in her place. Tempers flare, and physical altercations occur. The two can no longer endure this situation.
Meanwhile, spring is approaching, and Simone is getting ready to depart for the Foses pasture with the Regole sheep.

cros del gris

The snow has completely melted. The first blades of grass emerge, and the sun shyly peeks out from behind the mountains. The panorama, which until a few days ago was white and immaculate, is now adorned with a myriad of colors. There is the green of the grass, the blue of the sky, the gold of the sun caressing the lake and the small streams flowing between the rocks, the red of the sunset, and the pink of the mountains. Additionally, there are the blue and yellow hues of the flowers
From a small hilltop, right beside the path, the spectacle unfolding before the eyes of those who climb up is incredible: the long and deep valley, birds singing in the clear sky, and the wind playing with the clouds.

The situation has become unbearable. Simone is in Foses, tending to the sheep. Anna Maria is down in the village, preparing to climb into the high mountains to deliver a backpack filled with supplies to her husband. She brings bread, a generous amount of grappa and wine, speck, and salami. Additionally, she carries another item in her backpack, known only to her.
Departing at dawn, Anna Maria reaches Foses when the sun is already high. She greets her husband, offers him the delicacies she brought, and invites him to share some grappa. Sip by sip, the entire bottle is emptied, leaving Simone completely intoxicated. Attempting to say goodbye, he takes a few steps along the path with his wife but succumbs to sleep near the familiar hill where he used to sit, with a blade of grass in his mouth, whistling, while observing the sheep grazing the green pastures.

Only then does Anna Maria summon the courage she needs. Glancing around to ensure she remains unseen by the placid animals, she retrieves an ax from her backpack.

Lifting it once, she gazes at her sleeping husband on the ground. Unable to go through with it, she places the ax down. However, she gathers her resolve, lifts it again, and strikes.
One blow.
Simone doesn’t have time to wake up; he is already dead. Another blow. And another.

In a few months nothing will be the same as before. Blood drips from the wounds, saturating the soil. The ax is left partially buried; it will end up in a hole not far away, near the hilltop from which Simone once admired his mountains.

The grass has turned red; the sky is shrouded in clouds as a summer storm erupts. First, the flash, and after a few seconds, the deep rumble of thunder. Rain cascades, carrying away the blood in a small trickle; it washes away life, erasing the traces of a brutal murder. The ageless and imposing mountains stand witness, the wind howls through the crags, and water foams, cascading down the rocks. The flowers persist in growing silently, covering that place of wonders with beauty.
The blood has been cleansed; now only an earthly paradise remains, hidden from the eyes of tourists but a place worth discovering and enjoying. Is it a prelude to the serenity of another paradise?

The fate of the woman remains unknown. Some mention the Piombi in Venice as a cruel but just punishment.
Ascending to Foses, on that hilltop today, stands a cross., the Cross of Gris. Sit down, as Simone once did, to behold the view. Allow yourself to be captivated by the beauty, let it take your breath away, and remember what transpired there over a century ago, on August 3, 1848. Scrutinize, sharpen your gaze, breathe deeply.
Reflect on this story, this true tale.
And nothing will be the same as before.

cros del gris

Enrico Maioni Mountain Guide Dolomiti

Enrico Maioni

Certified Mountain Guide, with a wide know-how of the Dolomiti.
I was born in the heart of the Dolomites, where I live and work to this day.
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