The museum in the clouds: permanent exhibition
The vertical worlds
The Museum in the Clouds, located on Monte Rite (2181 m) between Pieve di Cadore and Cortina d’Ampezzo in the heart of the Dolomites, is sensational for the views alone. The plateau at the summit offers a 360° panorama of the most spectacular mountains in the Dolomites: Monte Schiara, Monte Agnèr, Monte Civetta, Marmolata, Monte Pelmo, Tofana di Rozes, Sorapis, Antelao, Marmarole. The theme of the museum in the old fort is “rock”. The museum illustrates the process of the conquest of the Dolomites – with reference to those natural scientists and mountaineers who wrote alpine history with their discoveries, new routes and first ascents. At the heart of the museum there is a big gallery housing a collection of unique paintings of the Dolomites, from the Romantic period up to today.
Inside, the renovated fort resembles the nave of a church with twenty side altars, where Reinhold Messner gives a phase-by-phase account of the development of the Dolomites.
He tells the story with the help of relics and souvenirs and with reference to those natural scientists and mountaineers who wrote alpine history with their discoveries, new routes and first ascents – from Dolomieu and the British pioneers to Michl Innerhofer and Georg Winkler, from Angelo Dibona and Michele Bettega to Emilio Comici and the Sixth Grade, as well as the Direttissima climbers like Alexander Huber and Lothar Brandler on the Moderne Zeiten route.
There is no more spectacular view of what are for me the most beautiful mountains in the world than from the roof or the glass lanterns of the MMM Dolomites! I was born in 1944 in the Villnöss Valley under the peaks of the Geisler range. My grandparents all came from the Dolomites area – from Antermoj, Colle Santa Lucia, the Ritten plateau and St. Magdalena in Villnöss. I thus truly feel I am a child of the Dolomites. I have climbed some 3,500 mountains in my life. I have got to know numerous mountain ranges and summits on close to one hundred expeditions to the mountains outside Europe: the Andes and the Rocky Mountains, the mountains of the Antarctic and those of Oceania, Japan and Alaska. Yet I have never seen more beautiful rock forms in the world than those of the Dolomites: the Geisler summits for example, or the Langkofel, or the overhanging north walls of the Drei Zinnen. Even as a boy I was surprised and amazed at their sheer variety. These impressions have never been surpassed – so my homecoming is thus also a declaration of my love for the Dolomites. The Geisler peaks frame my life as an adventurer.
Fort Monte Rite: history & restoration
Fort Monte Rite
Monte Rite in Cadore is a special mountain. For the military strategists at the beginning of the 20th century, Monte Rite was an ideal position for the Italian line of defense against the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef, and a fort was constructed at the summit in 1912-14. Then came the 1st World War. The fort was well built and withstood a number of attempts to blow it up by both armies. It later offered shelter to partisans and, after the 2nd World War, served as a village storehouse. In 1998 Reinhold Messner discovered Monte Rite. The fort was given a new role with new content, and in 2002 – in the United Nations’ International Year of Mountains – MMM Dolomites opened its doors.
From fort to museum
The derelict fort was completely restored and some modern structures added. The old rotating gun turrets, for example, were replaced with a striking lantern with panes of glass in irregular shapes suggestive of crystals – a fitting solution given that crystal is a characteristic of the dolomite rock. Enzo Siviero and Paolo Faccio, the two Padua architects commissioned for the project, were determined to preserve and reuse as much of the old building and materials as possible. Their solution was to restore the original structures and create a deliberate contrast with the modern additions required for the old fort’s new function.