Damage to Historical Monuments 'Significant'

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The earthquake in Abruzzo did not spare the region’s artistic patrimony, though government officials said Monday that it was too soon to determine the extent of the damage to historical buildings or works of art.

In L’Aquila, the regional capital, the earthquake caused “significant damage to monuments,” said Giuseppe Proietti, secretary general of the Italian Culture Ministry. The rear part of the apse of the Romanesque basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, much of which was restored in the 20th century, collapsed and cupolas in at least two churches in the historic center had cracked open.

The third floor of the 16th-century castle that houses the National Museum of Abruzzo was also affected by the quake, though officials have not been able to verify the damage to the art collection there. The news agency ANSA reported that the Porta Napoli, built in 1548 in honor of the Holy
Roman Emperor Charles V, was destroyed in the quake.

“The situation is very serious,” but findings are at a preliminary stage, Mr. Proietti said. He added that only after firefighters and civil protection teams had concluded their rescue efforts and search for survivors would the state’s art officials be allowed to enter into the rubble-strewn cities to calculate the material losses to Abruzzo’s cultural heritage.

Monday’s earthquake, with a 6.3 magnitude, was not the first to strike the central Italian city. In 1703, a quake destroyed much of the medieval historic center, which was then rebuilt in the Baroque style, according to Alessandro Clementi, who has written several books on the history of L’Aquila, which was founded in the 13th century and had its moment of greatest socioeconomic importance in the Renaissance.

Officials in Rome said that the quake had also damaged the Baths of Caracalla, one of the most imposing ancient Roman ruins in the Italian capital, some 60 miles west of the epicenter of the quake, and there was significant damage reported in the villages around L’Aquila as well.

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