Italian Earthquake Destroys 15th-Century Frescoes, Throwing Culture Ministry Into Crisis

Over a thousand works of art have been evacuated from the region.

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The 15-century frescoes in the San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia. Courtesy of Norcia.
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The 15-century frescoes in the San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia. Courtesy of Norcia.
San Salvatore in Campi di Norcia
The 15-century frescoes in the San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia. Courtesy of Norcia.
The 15-century frescoes in the San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia. Courtesy of Norcia.
San Salvatore in Campi di Norcia
The 15-century frescoes in the San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia. Courtesy of Norcia.
The 15-century frescoes in the San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia. Courtesy of Norcia.
San Salvatore in Campi di Norcia
The 15-century frescoes in the San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia. Courtesy of Norcia.
The 15-century frescoes in the San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia. Courtesy of Norcia.
San Salvatore in Campi di Norcia
The 15-century frescoes in the San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia. Courtesy of Norcia.
The 15-century frescoes in the San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia. Courtesy of Norcia.
San Salvatore in Campi di Norcia
The 15-century frescoes in the San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia. Courtesy of Norcia.
The 15-century frescoes in the San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia. Courtesy of Norcia.
San Salvatore in Campi di Norcia
The 15-century frescoes in the San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia. Courtesy of Norcia.
The 15-century frescoes in the San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia. Courtesy of Norcia.
San Salvatore in Campi di Norcia
The 15-century frescoes in the San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia. Courtesy of Norcia.

A pair of earthquakes in eastern Italy has triggered the collapse of the church of San Salvatore in Campi di Norcia, a 15th-century building in the Umbria region decorated with colorful murals by Giovanni Sparapane and Antonio Sparapane. 

According to the Art Newspaper, it is among a number of cultural heritage sites that have been damaged by the 5.4 and 5.9 magnitude earthquakes, which struck October 26 near Visso in the Marche region.

The Rough Guide to Tuscany and Umbria describes the San Salvatore church as “a double-fronted Romanesque beauty… smothered with frescoes.” Now, the church lies in ruins, its dramatic collapse caught on camera by Italian news channel RaiNews24.

RaiNews24 was on the scene as the San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia collapsed. Screengrab from YouTube.

RaiNews24 was on the scene as the San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia collapsed. Screengrab from YouTube.

The church had already been closed following a previous earthquake in August that left its exterior cracked. The earlier quake had a magnitude of 6.2, and killed 295 people.

In response to the seismic activity, a culture ministry task force had evacuated over 1,200 works of art from the affected region and stored in the Cittaducale in Lazio. Following the latest disaster, culture minister Dario Franceschini is reportedly planning to name a superintendent to manage the area.

San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia. Courtesy of Norcia.

San Salvatore church in Campi di Norcia, prior to its collapse. Courtesy of Norcia.

In addition to San Salvatore, the earthquake severely damaged the rose window an facade of the Basilica of Sant’Eutizio near Preci, while the bell tower has collapsed at the church of Santa Maria in Via in Camerino. An estimated 80 percent of houses in the town are uninhabitable following the disaster, but amazingly, there were no fatalities.

In the aftermath, Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology has detected hundreds of additional tremors, Experts believe the seismic activity could continue for weeks or months.


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