Italy – Salesian Fr Alberto Maria De Agostini at center of international study conference

23 March 2022

(ANS - Rome) - "Don Alberto Maria De Agostini, l’uomo, la natura, l’arte, la scienza -the man, nature, art, science" is the title of an international study conference that the Istituto Storico Salesiano, the Salesian Historical Institute, will hold in Rome at the Salesian Pontifical University from April 25 to 27, 2022. Scholars from universities, study centers, museums in Italy, Argentina and Chile will speak to illustrate the figure of this Salesian, who died 62 years ago, but whose cultural legacy continues to be current.

To him we owe the last photos of the Alakaluf, Ona, Tehuelche and Yamana, peoples who are now extinct. If today we know how much the ice has receded at the end of the American continent, it is thanks to the comparison between the current satellite photos and those he took at the beginning of the century. His photographic and film footage made it possible to establish the boundaries on the peaks of the Argentine-Chilean Andes almost a century ago. If today there is an impressive tourist flow in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego it is also thanks to his tourist guides, his films, and his books.

He was born in Pollone-Biella in 1883 and became a Salesian at sixteen years old.  As soon as he was ordained a priest, in 1910, he left as a missionary for Southern Patagonia. He worked as a teacher within the Salesian works, but during the summer months he devoted himself to exploring the lands, waters, tribes that lived on both sides of the Strait of Magellan. Passionate climber, cartographer by birth, expert photographer, unrepentant explorer, he also became an amateur anthropologist, geologist, botanist, zoologist, writer. In 1920 he returned to Italy to print his first book "I miei viaggi nella terra del fuoco - My travels in the land of fire". It was a resounding international success, which was to be renewed also for the other publications in the following three decades.

To the "end of the world" Father de Agostini returned eight times, from 1928 to 1958, accompanied by scholars and the best alpine guides. Each time he spent a few months or a few years. During his long pauses in Italy he lent a hand as a teacher and confessor in the Salesian houses in Turin, while he spent time organizing his research, publishing books, writing articles in specialized magazines, holding conferences, participating in scientific meetings. He did not rest until he crowned his dream: at 74 years old he successfully organized an enterprise he had dreamed of for 35 years: the conquest of the legendary Mount Sarmiento (2235 m). 

After so much wandering in unexplored places, he could now rest in the shadow of the shrine of Mary Help of Christians in Turin, where he died on Christmas day in 1960. Don Patagonia, as he was nicknamed, is a Salesian who brought honor to the Salesian Congregation, to the Church, to science.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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