Adventures of the Arsenale

Publish date 29-07-2020

by Ernesto Olivero

One of the biggest regrets I have in the construction of the Arsenal is that I did not write down all the events that happened every day. However, someone has remained printed in my mind, so much so that it is now unforgettable. When we started construction, we didn't know what we were getting into. The Lord had armored us with holy unconsciousness, so he only showed us one piece at a time and did not allow us to be discouraged. Instead, our friends, engineers, surveyors, architects, knew well what a company like that meant and was more frightened than all of us. For a long time, they even disappeared. Much later, they confided to us that they thought that the Arsenal would become the tomb of Sermig, such was the disproportion between the necessary works and our real forces. In fact, it took six years of work, something like 500 thousand hours, an expense that is around six billion ... If we had known before, we would have died of fright! Providence guided every day of work, every difficult decision, every need. One day I was passing through the current peace room, and looking at all the windows and doors, I noticed that there were no windows, a hundred in all. I wrote down on the blackboard: looking for glass. The next day, I started looking. I immediately thought of calling the engineer who was helping us, Gabriele Manfredi. I phoned him, talked to him about some things and while I was talking to him, I didn't feel like asking him for glasses. I decided to go behind my intuition. I ended the phone call with some embarrassment (it felt like it was a bit of a phone call). "How strange, I phone him to ask him for the glasses and then I decide not to ask him ...". After a few minutes the bell rings. I'm going to open it myself. Two beautiful, blond women appear, they looked like sisters, instead they were mom and daughter. They are the ones who welcome me: «Ah, it is she who opens us. We really wanted to talk to her ». I said, "Look, I have a moment of time." They wanted to give me some money for some solidarity. I propose a realization for abandoned children. They are surprised that, finding ourselves talking in a ruin such as the Arsenal, I asked for money for a solidarity initiative in Brazil rather than for the restructuring. I repeat that the money offered for the poor goes without fail to the poor and not for the Arsenal. The bricks of the Arsenale must arrive differently. At a certain point they look me in the face and say to me: "But do you need glass?" And I: "I have been waiting for you since yesterday!". And the glasses have arrived.
One day Fr Toni, a priest friend of mine from Alba, telephones me and says: "Ernesto, if you let us find the bricks, we on Saturday and Sunday will come with ten bricklayers and put up all the walls you want." I didn't have a single brick, but I said: "I have bricks: come on!".
We needed 50,000 bricks! One of the first things I taught my young people is to remove the word from our vocabulary: buy! It is not out of avarice or not giving the right reward ... The reason is that everything that is saved becomes a restitution for the poorest; secondly, there are many generous people who expect nothing more than to give something concrete. On Tuesday evening I launch an appeal in prayer: «My friends, we need 50,000 bricks. Can any of you help us? ». During the night, I dream of bricks everywhere. When I wake up, I decide that the first five people I meet, I would ask for bricks. «Look, I need 10,000 bricks. If you can let me have them in Piazza Borgo Dora 61 ... ». Within a few hours, 50,000 bricks arrived. Only that 50,000 bricks, placed close to each other, are immensity; they occupied almost all the space in the courtyard. While I was thinking how to move them without wasting time on the bricklayers, a parish priest friend of mine telephoned me: «Ernesto, I would like to ask you a pleasure: I have one hundred and twenty boys from the catechism, I don't know what to make them do. If I take them to the Arsenal for a few hours, will you get him a job? " I immediately think of bricks and say: "There are 50,000 bricks waiting for them!".
A Saturday and a Sunday: 10 bricklayers, 120 boys, 50 thousand bricks and the walls of the Arsenale that are growing rapidly, under the incredulous eyes of the people of Porta Palazzo.

One day Luciano, a carpenter friend, telephones me: «I know that you are making the ceiling of the church, I know that you are putting some" trims ", I know that you are nailing them one by one. I could come one day to work with you. I have an automatic pistol and in less time we could finish everything, but I need at least 100 square meters of assets. It was a Saturday morning and there were a lot of kids at the Arsenale. I ask a dozen of them to take action and search around the Arsenal for anything that could look like assets. By the end of the day we had found almost nothing. And I happily say: «Well, I'm happy, because I know who worked on it, you believed it and when you put all your effort, the result does not count! We see that it had to be like this. There will be something we don't understand. " I don't finish talking, giving this consolation to my sad friends, who plays a gentleman with a truck, calls me: "Signor Ernesto, I was passing by: I have a hundred meters of assets, do you need them?". I just said, "Left bottom!"


from Progetto, March 1993

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