Architectural treasures damaged in Italian earthquake

April 7th, 2009 - 6:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Rome, April 7 (DPA) While public attention in Italy continued to focus Tuesday on the human toll of the earthquake that struck the central Abruzzo region, details of widespread damage to many historical buildings has also began to emerge.
In Abruzzo’s regional capital L’Aquila, originally built in the Middle Ages as a mountain stronghold, it were mostly modern buildings that were flattened when the main shock struck the city early Monday morning.

Experts noted that had the earthquake occurred hours before, people attending Palm Sunday Mass at L’Aquila’s Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio would have been in grave danger.

The earthquake caused the collapse of the roof over the central transept area of the medieval church, widely considered a masterpiece of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.

At another church, the 16th century San Bernardino, the belltower crumbled. Stones also tumbled from the city’s main cathedral, which was rebuilt after a 1703 earthquake.

Boasting several gems representing changing archaeological styles through the ages, L’Aquila also saw the destruction of the dome of the Anime Sante church, designed by the famed Neoclassical architect Giuseppe Valadier.

The dome of another church, the Baroque-style Sant’ Agostino, toppled down onto an adjacent building housing the city’s main government offices.

Surrounding towns, also suffered losses to their architectural heritage.

Among these, a tiny medieval mountain hamlet voted Italy’s prettiest in a recent poll, San Stefano di Sessanio, lost its landmark watchtower.

The earthquake’s main shock was also felt as far way as Rome, some 100 km from the epicentre, initially raising fears of possible damage to the Terme di Caracalla, located near the ancient capital’s centre.

But officials denied reports that fresh cracks had emerged on the walls of of the Terme, the famed thermal baths built by the Emperor Caracalla.

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