Abbey’s Restoration Is First Stitch to Heal a Gash in Central Italy’s Landscape

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CASTIGLIONE A CASAURIA, Italy — A little more than two years after an earthquake destroyed broad stretches of Italy’s central Abruzzo region, this normally low-buzz community of some 900 souls was a beehive of activity.

Under sunny April skies, residents both wizened and young gathered for the much awaited reopening of the medieval Abbey of San Clemente, a beloved local landmark that was shattered by the April 6, 2009, temblor that killed more than 300 and left tens of thousands homeless.

Many were thrilled that after two years of celebrating Mass in tents, they would return to more decorous surroundings. Other reasons were more personal. “This used to be our favorite place to study,” Domenico Cantamaglia, a 19-year-old in his last year of high school, said of the lawn surrounding the church. “And in summer, it’s one of the freshest places to hang out.”

Vincenza Di Benedetto, a local woman who mused that the formerly brisk pace in wedding ceremonies would soon pick up, said: “Let’s face it, if it weren’t for the abbey, Castiglione would hardly be on the map; it’s the town’s calling card. Couples would come from all over, at least they used to.”...

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