To see the complete work, scroll the slide.

The frieze of The Story of Humanity
by Guglielmo Riavis


Gorizia is a town that is full of hidden treasures, which often not even the natives of Gorizia know about: from the tombs of the last Bourbons of France to the Moorish themes of Villa Lasciac, from the synagogue of the Jewish ghetto to the secret gardens and to the sober mitteleuropa villas that remind us of Gorizia’s past as the “Austrian Nice”. One of these treasures, which is popular only with a handful of teachers and pupils must be the frieze with the Story of Humanity, made in 1954 by the architect Guglielmo Riavis in the Assembly Hall of the school Istituto Professionale di Stato “R.M. Cossar – L. Da Vinci” of Gorizia, owing to the Bottai law, that from 1942 has donated 2% to the cost of building each new building and embellishing it with works of art.

40 metres of art
that teach the story of humanity

Over a length of 40 metres, a fascinating story of human progress unfolds, with harmonious linked images that stimulate readings at different levels of depth. We can just limit ourselves to running our eyes over the various periods or read subtle visual quotations between the lines. Riavis’ work has two aspects: education and play: you can educate by playing and play by educating. A learning game that becomes even more exciting because it is properly proposed with iconographic precision and fine artistic quality. A jewel of graphic and chromatic composition, at the same time exciting like a treasure hunt and unforgettable like the marvellous illustrated encyclopaedias of the 1960s which have remained in the memories of generations of students. Culture. Art. To sum up: involving, communicating, and stimulating interpretations. By the way, the frieze is curiously signed “wi avis”, where “wi” stands for “Willy”, and “avis” may have be taken from the Latin “rara avis”, the rare bird of Juvenal’s Satires that is a person of rare quality.

A second reading level: the deciphered iconography

In order to understand the meaning and the value of the frieze of Guglielmo Riavis, on which there are no notes on the many themes depicted, we have traced the development of the work with detailed captions: a work of research and interpretation that enhances these 40 metres of an extraordinary Story of Humanity and provides some illumination for the more curious readers.

In order to interpret the work and discover the subjects depicted, scroll the slide underneath (text in Italian).


Guglielmo Riavis:
an artist with a passion for challenges

The Gorizia resident Guglielmo “Willy” Riavis was born on 13 April 1917 in Klagenfurt, where the family had found refuge during the First World War. Back in Gorizia after the war, he showed early artistic talent. After the technical school, he graduated from Venice’s Artistic Lyceum, where he graduated in architecture 1946. Versatile and prolific, in forty years of career he moved from art to architecture, from industrial design to advertising graphics, and dedicated himself with passion to teaching. He worked intensively in Gorizia, in Italy, and abroad: he wrote about six hundred works on architecture, specializing in particular on the restoration of public and private buildings, including in Gorizia the covered market, villa Coronini, and the cathedral. He received many important awards and also excelled in graphic design, winning a first price at the Venice art Biennale, revolutionizing the lace technique of the Gorizia school by introducing colour. In the last period of his life, he often stayed in Iran, where he completed many projects. Riavis was indefatigable, eclectic and cosmopolitan but he remained deeply attached to his town and in particular to the district of San Rocco, which dedicated an important retrospective to him in 2007.