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French Graveyard in S. Leonardo / St. Leonhard

In November 1809 thousands of soldiers from Napoleon’s army advanced over the Jaufenpass and into the Passeier Valley. They were heading for Meran. At St. Leonhard, however, there was a violent confrontation with Passeier insurgents, 22 of whom were killed, while 200 soldiers and 30 officers were reported dead on the French side.

According to subsequent accounts, the dead Frenchmen were buried in an old cemetery – probably a plague cemetery – at the edge of St. Leonhard. In the anniversary year of 1959, 150 years after the rebellion, the local company of marksmen affixed a marble tablet there. The French Embassy to this day sends funds for the maintenance of the cemetery, with the French tricolore flying over the grass.

No trace was found of the dead Frenchmen during an archaeological excavation carried out in 2009. This seemed to confirm earlier doubts about any mass grave containing French soldiers. But in 2013 the French Ministry of Defence arranged for further excavations; these actually found a knife and the remains of bones and articles of clothing, which suggest such a grave.

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