Mantua Firefighters' Gallery

The Historic Gallery of the National Corps of Fire Brigade is housed in a pertinence of the great complex of the Ducal Palace of Mantua. In particular, the building appears in the perspective plan of the city made by Gabriele Bertazzolo in 1596. His first destination was the court stables.

Firefighters' Gallery (1500)Mantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Later, after the Gonzaga dynasty, the building belonged to the Treasury, and in the nineteenth century it was incorporated into the Station for Cavalry and Artillery. From 1889 it was once again used as a stable. Today, the ancient walls are home to an extraordinary collection of vehicles, light vehicles, ships and planes that document the evolution over time of the firefighters' equipment that operated and operate for the salvation of the community. Naturally, the whole is accompanied by a series of additional testimonies, stored in special windows. It should be remembered that modern firefighters originated from a medieval guild of very long life, called the Brentatori. The 'brente' were large containers usually used for the transport of wine, but that during fires proved to be particularly useful for bringing the water that these fires could tame. The Corps of Firefighters was established in Mantua in 1832: from the first bases of voluntary work it underwent a rapid evolution, which brought it to today's extreme professionalism.

Firefighters' Gallery (1500)Mantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Red and flames

Today's visitor is fascinated by the combination of the great ancient spaces, naked in the appearance of the brick wall, and the fire-red cars that, since the nineteenth century, were used to fight the frequent fires. In the two main galleries of the museum, they are arranged in an orderly manner, accompanied by explanatory plaques that document the evolution of efficiency aimed at rapid intervention, using increasingly accurate construction techniques. From the earliest wooden artifacts, carts or modified carriages, we move on to the twentieth century production: in the post-war period a large set of machinery was designed to bring help as soon as possible. There is no shortage of helicopters, numerous motorcycles, some velocipedes, as well as the presentation of uniforms, helmets, lamps and tools of different types.

Firefighters' Gallery (1500)Mantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

A unique collection

The museum is not just a collection of vehicles. It represents a glorious history: that of many people, known or anonymous, who have fought over the years against natural adversity and damage caused by man, bringing to salvation citizens, buildings and other material goods. It is curious that on the shores of the lake of Mantova, a city dominated over the centuries by the water, today this very important testimony arises, which lives thanks to the voluntary help of many firemen in retreat. But we must obviously remember the decisive contribution of the current Fire Brigade, which continues its fundamental mission, distinguished by an ever-increasing effectiveness.

Horse-drawn Wagon Hose (1850)Mantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Horse-drawn Wagon Hose

This kind of elegant carriage is the oldest Italian wheeled complex built specifically to be used against fires. It dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, and brings us back to a glorious era in which the personal courage of firemen and their tenacity were essential to fight the flames. Today we admire the beauty of the vehicle. Once upon a time, it was a fundamental help to save human lives.

Wagon with horse-drawn fire Pump (1835)Mantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Wagon with horse-drawn fire Pump

A dip in the most ancient history takes us in the first half of the nineteenth century, when the fire engines were pulled by horses and therefore corresponded to modified carriages. This model was built by the Czernak company, operating in the Austrian city of Teplitz, today Teplice in the Czech Republic. It was able to transport six crewmen and numerous equipment. It was in use until the early twentieth century.

Fireman bicycles (1901)Mantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Fireman bycicles

The two examples shown here belong to the early twentieth century. At that time, the use of bicycles was essential to guarantee the firemen a prompt intervention. As can be seen, the essential modification with respect to the normal velocipedes consists in the round space obtained between the two wheels to accommodate the sleeve which was then hooked to the hydrant closest to the place hit by the fire. The bicycle then carried axes, ropes and other tools that could isolate fires. Obviously, the red color reaffirmed its membership in the Fire Brigade Corps.

Fiat 502 F (1923) by FiatMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Fiat 502 F

This beautiful specimen is entirely restored and takes us back to the years between the two world wars. The fire engines were essential aids for taming the fires. Their effectiveness was measured both by the speed of the vehicle and by the power of the pump itself, in this case equipped by a centrifuge with a two-piston volumetric vacuum system, which allowed a flow of eight liters per minute. As for the engine, it is a 4-cylinder petrol motor with magnet ignition, cylinder capacity of 1460 cubic centimeters and a maximum speed of 65 kilometers per hour.

Firetruck Fiat 502 F (1923) by FiatMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Firetruck Fiat 502 F

Every detail of the expertly restored mechanical artifact brings us back to the craftsmanship of those years, which made a Fiat created to fight the fire capable of expressing an objective beauty, almost out of time.

Various Motorvehicles (1901)Mantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Various motorvehicles

In one image, three magnificent vehicles.On the left we see an OM Autopump. Loc. built in 1940, the only one left of a series of light fire engines specifically designed for the National Fire Brigade. It is also the first example of a closed fire engine; it was equipped with a Bergomi pump of 1000 liters per minute, had a maximum speed of 75 kilometers per hour and carried a crew of 5 men.At the center, an Amphibious Schwimmwagen, built in 1942 by the Volkswagen. It could travel in water at a speed of 12 kilometers per hour, thanks to a folding upward propeller. It was delivered to the Fire Brigade in 1952, and used in the Polesine flood.On the right, a Fiat 1100 BLR Autoambulance, assembled in 1942, with a top speed of 88 kilometers per hour. It could carry a stretcher with related services.

GMC Amphibious truck (1943)Mantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

GMC amphibious truck

This amphibious vehicle was used for landing in Normandy and later adapted to the needs of the National Fire Brigade, from 1951. Particularly effective in interventions to help the flooded populations, was used for example in Polesine, Holland and Florence in 1966. It remained active until the early eighties. He could carry up to forty men and up to fifty quintals of material. Its six-cylinder GMC engine delivered 95 hp, which allowed a speed of 14 km / h in water and 85 km on the road.

Agusta Bell 47G 3B-1 Helicopter (1956)Mantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Agusta Bell 47G 3B-1 Helicopter

This beautiful helicopter specimen was long used by Major Rinaldo Enrico, a gold medalist, 'Valor Civile alla Memoria'. It is a three-seater with double command, which made it suitable for training courses. It is equipped with a barycentric hook and could mount floats or snow shoes. Its maximum speed was 150 kilometers per hour, while its weight is 777 kilograms.The agility of the forms still surprises today and corresponds to its ancient handling, ideal for quick interventions.

Credits: Story

Ideato e promosso da / Founded and Promoted by: Mattia Palazzi (Sindaco del Comune di Mantova) con Lorenza Baroncelli (Assessore alla rigenerazione urbana e del territorio, marketing urbano, progetti e relazioni internazionali del Comune di Mantova) Coordinamento Scientifico / Scientific Coordinator: Sebastiano Sali Curatore testi e immagini / Superintendent texts and images: Giovanni Pasetti Foto di / Photo by: Art Camera Redazione / Editor: Erica Beccalossi Assistente / Assistant: Annica Boselli Ringraziamenti a / Greetings to: Comando Provinciale Vigili del Fuoco di Mantova

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