Those who went to Austria before the advent of the euro, will probably remember the 20 banknote, a low value cut that circulated in large quantities. In that bill he was portrayed as a gentleman with a decidedly nineteenth-century appearance, with a mustache and long wavy hair. That gentleman born in Venice on January 10 1802 of Albanian origin was called Carlo Ghega and was one of the most brilliant railway builders that history has ever known.
The Semmering railway, when the train was a myth of progress
The engineer Carlo Gegha or the "Knight of the Alps" as it was nicknamed in the book of Aldo Rampati (Trieste: Edizioni "Italo Svevo", 2002) is considered a myth in the history of Austrian railway construction, symbol of the introduction of a new dimension of mobility. There Semmering railway it is recognized as the most famous mountain railway, referring to the enormous difficulties given by the territory in which it is built and by the great differences in heights overcome.
It connects the city of Gloggnitz to Mürzzuschlag, crossing the stretch of the Semmering which gives its name to the entire route. At Mürzusschlag you can visit the museum dedicated to this historic railway.
The first mountain railway in Europe to be built in 6 years, amidst bureaucratic slowness. Work began in the 1848 and ended up in the 1854, and along its 41 km path there are 14 tunnels (including a long 1.431 meter), sixteen viaducts (some of which are two-storey) and more than 100 bridges (in stone or iron). The 60% of the route of the Semmering section faces slopes with slopes between 20 and 25 per thousand, and for almost the entire length the train travels in curves, with bending radii often lower than 200 meters. The retaining walls built along the way, the stations and the service buildings were built using the waste material extracted from the excavations of the tunnels. This railway was designed and built by the Albanian engineer, Carlo Gegha (Carl Ritter Von Ghega as it is known in the Germanic countries). He throws away one of the dogmas of engineering science making it possible to create a work that was impossible before by crossing an unreachable height in the past, and we are talking about 1000 meters above sea level. This gigantic work is inserted by Gegha in the great book of famous builders in the world.
The Semmering railway, since its construction was hailed as a work of "landscape architecture", meaning by this the happy harmonization of technology and nature that offered a unique travel experience. It starts from Vienna at eight in the morning and after about an hour you reach the Semmering pass. The Semmering covers the stretch that goes from the 436 meters of altitude to the highest point at 895 meters on the sea. The railway opened the naturalistic scenery of the Semmering to tourism, which is why in a few years numerous houses and hotels were built. At the beginning of the 20th century the area underwent enormous development as a destination for winter sports enthusiasts, but all this came to a halt with the outbreak of the First World War, although it was thanks to what the natural and cultural landscape remained intact for the following decades.
In the 1998 the Semmering railway was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The legendary figure of this colossus ranks among the "greatest Austrians" 100 in the history of the Austrian nation, along with Mozart, Freud, Maria Teresa, Franz Joseph, Kafka, Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss, Brahms, Alois Negrelli (designer of the Suez Canal) and many others. His name is covered by many enigmas, related to birth, death and its origin, but also other elements so far unknown in the life of this genius of the Semmering railway: which will remain connected to the life of Gegha, as the former president mentioned Austria Franz Jonas.
Carlo Ghega - from childhood to career
In the 10 January, 1802 the family of the captain of the Venetian navy, Antonio Gegha and Anna Pribich announced the birth of the younger son Carlo Ghega. Antonio and his family lived in the east of the city in Via Garibaldi and Rio di S.Anna in "Sestiere di Castello", a district of the officers and employees of the Venetian Navy. The first Carlo teachings took him in the elementary school near the family. Carlo's father, Antonio wanted his son to follow the career of the navy, not detaching himself from the family tradition. As soon as 13 years Carlo's life took another direction, this choice was taken by his father after the Austrians took control of Venice, but in the meantime considering Carlo's scholars, he decided to move his son from the “Royal College of Marina " to the "Collegio Militare di Sant'Anna". The subjects taught there were: mathematics, geometry, plane and spherical trigonometry, physical algebra, the theory of oscillations and the mechanics of solid bodies, which gave Charles a complete training in the subjects of the exact sciences.
Being in possession of the two schools, Carlo enrolled in the second year of the three-year course at the Faculty of Philosophical and Mathematical Sciences at the University of Padua, where the best professors and scientists of the time taught. Carlo moved directly into the second year, thanks to his talent and his exceptional intellect he had managed to skip the first year, but it was not long before Carlo took his second year exams in August 1818. But this young man at just 15 years while following the three-year degree course had started working for the Central Inspectorate of Water Works and Roads for the Veneto region, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Only 17 years he graduated in engineering at the University of Padua, attending the Venetian Academy of Fine Arts at the same time and also taking an interest in mathematics. From then on his career was really rapid. At the age of twenty he entered as an apprentice in the Administration of Public Works of the Venetian Provinces, dealing with the construction of roads, in particular those directed towards the Alps.
Later he obtained central management in Venice, where he remained in office until 1836 when he was hired by the Austrian Rothschild Bank for the construction of the Kaiser Ferdinand Nordbahn, the railway that would connect Vienna to Trieste and, towards the Carpathians, with Bochnia (Galicia) . Li was assigned the function of the "practicing" engineer, but nevertheless the young Carlo was not fully satisfied with filling his ego and this is demonstrated by the fact that he followed courses in architecture at "The Academy of Fine Arts". In the 1818 he receives the title "Architect Engineer" while in 11 June 1819 took the "Doctorate in Mathematics" and is honored with honors before the Commission of the University of Padua. In the 1852 during the works of the Semmering railway, Carlo Ghega is appointed General Manager for the construction of the Austro-Hungarian railways. Carlo passed away in the 1860 from a lung disease, even before finishing his railway work begun in Transylvania.
The presence of the Albanians in Venice
The question of its origin was the most discussed topic in all scientific and publicist publications. The literature studied so far could be considered a valid document, as the researcher of Austrian history, Enderer, mentions during the conference held in the '75 referring to the anniversary of the Semmering railway in the 1929 he said: “The question arises whether Italians can consider Gegha as their compatriot. From blood and from the origin it is impossible".
Instead one of Ghega's scholars, Paul Mechler Director of the Vienna Railway Museum, he wrote in the 1960: "The origin of the Ghega family is still being questioned by the Venetian side. They have served in San Marco as naval officers for many generations".
In a manuscript of the 3 Novembre 1739 the line is represented in generations and this is also witnessed by his cousin Giovanni Battista Gegha, who served as a priest in the church of San Marco, referring to the documents found in the library of the Correr museum in Venice. Until today it remains clear that the surname Ghega, does not derive only from the fact that it belongs to the mountainous region of northern Albania or to the dialect spoken in the north of Albania (comparing to the "tosk ") who live in the less harsh lands of the south, but nevertheless are inherited in the family tree of his family, coming from the village of Kallmet of Lezha, province of Scuttari. (Gjergji) I leave as his heir, on this line, Cristoforo, naval officer in Venice, where he lost an arm in the Venetian war of Thesalia. Cristoforo I leave as heir in this line Gasparo, colonel of the navy. He had three children: Antonio, Carlo's father, Giovanni Antonio and Angela.
It must be emphasized that the fact of the presence of the Albanian colony for more than six centuries has never been mentioned when speaking of the origin of the Gegha family, bringing with them many famous figures including scientists, publicists, artists, officers and many public figures, because Venice was the center that gathered Albanian figures after the death of Giorgio Castriota Scanderbeg, and here we name Gjon Buzuku, Marin Barleti, Marin Becikemin, Leonik Tomeon, etc.
In a commendation of the 1503 directed to the Duchy of Venice and to the Senate the Albanian writer, a native of Scutari said:
"We Scutari citizens when we reached Venice we were hundreds of men, women and children".
The presence of the Albanians in Venice is however also transmitted through the testimony of Evangelica Skoufari's work entitled "The foreigners in Venice between the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age", edition of the University of Padua in the 2003. Through his story we understand that the Albanian merchants settled in Venice in the second half of the fourteenth century. Robert Elsie also wrote about the origin and origin of Carlo Ghega.
The Albanians were the first emigrants who founded their own society (brotherhood) "The school of San Severo and San Gallo in 1442 is known as" Scuola dei Albanesi "and aimed to assist all those Albanians who came to Venice. Their presence in the economic life of Venice seems to have been present throughout the centuries until the 20th century.
The facts that demonstrate the presence of the Albanians is confirmed by the exchange of correspondence between the great Albanian writer Eleni Gjika (Dora D'Istria) with the great writer of origin Arberesh, De Rada. Dora D'istria talks about the presence of Albanians in all aspects of life in Venice. Even today, after a century and a half, Venice has 9 streets and squares that preserve Albanian names:
- 1.Calle of the Albanians (Canarregio)
- 2.Ramo of the Albanians (Canarregio)
- 3.Campiello d. Albanesi (Canarregio)
- 4.Calle of the Albanians (Santa Croce)
- 5.Campiello of the Albanians (Santa Croce)
- 6.Calle of the Albanians (nahe Rio Terá)
- 7.Calle of the Albanians (San Marco)
- 8.Calle of the Albanians (Castello)
- 9.Ruga Apolonia (Castle)
This is the best proof of the presence of the Albanians and of the continuity of this origin in Venice from the Middle Ages to the present day.
The works of Carlo Ghega
The achievements of Ghega in Italy are still used today. The Vienna-Graz route with the arrival in Trieste in the 1857. The station was rebuilt in a later period, but anyone traveling to Trieste by train passes over the Barcola viaduct, the work of Ghega, while the grandiose viaduct that leads to Opicina and therefore in Slovenia is less and less used by the FS (indeed, it seems). that the Opicina station is about to close). Another very long viaduct on that line, in Borovnica, Slovenia, which was destroyed during the Second World War and never rebuilt.
Among his works created in Italy, between the 1820 and the 1824, he was involved in the construction of the Belluno stretch of the Alemagna road which is still used today to go to Cortina d'Ampezzo, and to build a new court in Treviso (1823-1824). He also worked on hydraulic works for the regulation of the lower Po, between the 1829 and the 1833, and the design of the roads of the Valsugana, including the difficult stretch between Trento and Pergine.
However, we can say that "true love" meets him in railways: the railways. He traveled a lot for study purposes. First in England, where in December of the 1836 he also met Robert Stephenson - another brilliant British engineer and member of the Royal Society and builder of the first steam locomotive (the Rocket) and the first railway line, then in Belgium. But it was in the US trip, where he visited 39 railway lines well, which was fascinated by the Baltimore-Ohio line. The construction and operation of this one offers the most instructive experiences demonstrating how it was possible to replace the other more complicated and expensive use in Europe with a simple construction and little expense and to successfully introduce the locomotives as an exclusive driving force. where bold are the relationships of inclination and curves, where the many considered the enterprise impossible if not with the help of cogwheels or pulled by the strength of the horses.
His legacy, as well as being physical and tangible in the works that are still used today by many people, has been applied to the base of the construction of the most difficult sections of mountain railway throughout the world, thanks to his studies, including those at high altitudes of the Andes cordillera. Two roads have been named after him, one in Vienna and one in Trieste.
His legacy, composed of 274 titles of manuscript and printed works, of various authors and different typologies, and the addition of 14 "supernumerary", was donated and still preserved in the Marciana National Library. In his will, dated 21 January 1858, he wrote in fact:
"I leave all my Italian, French and German books and manuscripts owned by the public Library of S. Marco in Venezia"
The collection is composed of editions of ancient and modern literary works, history writings, technical-scientific treatises. Part of the manuscript material, including the Report and project of the Semmering railway in German, was listed in Class IV of the Library's Italian manuscripts.
The Austrian Post Office in the 1936 and 1952 dedicated some stamps to him while the Austrian government in the 1967 printed a commemorative 20 shilling banknote depicting a portrait of Ghega on one side and a bridge on the Semmering railway on the other. His studies were taken up all over the world to build the most challenging mountain railway sections, such as those at high altitudes in the Andean cordillera.
Carlo Ghega - Titles and commemorations
For the Austrians it was Carl Ritter (Knight) Von Ghega, Imperial royal Ministerial Councilor, Honorary Citizen of Brno and Trieste, Commander of the Order of Francesco Giuseppe, Knight of the Order of the Iron Crown of III Class, Knight of the Order of Leopold, Commander of the Tuscan Order of Joseph. The Association of Austrian Engineers and Architects had a monumental tomb erected in the central cemetery of Vienna.
Documentaries on Carlo Ghega
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