Massive damage to heritage after quake

Yesterday's earthquake in L'Aquila, Italy caused ''huge'' damage to the medieval city's artistic heritage, Heritage Ministry Secretary-General Giuseppe Proietti said. The apse of the Abruzzo city's largest Romanesque church, the 13th-century Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio, had collapsed ''from the transept to the back of the church,'' he said.

The Basilica, with its famed pink-and-white jewel-box façade, was the site of the coronation of Pope Celestine V in 1294 and thousands of pilgrims still flock there each year.

The Porta Napoli, the oldest and most beautiful gate to the city built in 1548 in honour of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, was destroyed in the quake.

There were also concerns for the National Museum of Abruzzo, which is housed in the 16th-century castle.

Created in 1950, the Museum unified the collections of the civic and diocesan museums as well as a private collection of paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries and includes a beautifully preserved fossilised skeleton of a prehistoric elephant found near the town in the 1950s.

The castle suffered a collapse on its third floor and is too dangerous to enter, according to Proietti.

''The store rooms where damaged works are kept safe are also in areas that have collapsed or unstable,'' said Proietti, who added that he was gathering a team of heritage experts from other regions to help salvage the works.

Elsewhere in the city, the cupola of the 17th-century Anime Sante church and the bell tower of L'Aquila's largest Renaissance church, San Bernardino da Siena, were also down.

The cupola of the 18th-century Baroque church of St Augustine collapsed, flattening the prefecture that held L'Aquila's state archives.

St Augustine was previously destroyed in an earthquake in 1703 and had to be rebuilt.

''Naturally there have been various collapses all over the city, with cornices, walls and pieces of roof often obstructing the streets,'' Proietti said.

Source: Ansa.it

More pictures of the devastation caused by the trembling earth can be found at the Italian State Police Site.

For a more detailed historical and scientific look at quakes in the Abruzzo region go here.

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