Earthquake in Northern Italy destroys Historic Sites

The Town Hall in Sant’Agostino, Italy, damaged by Sunday’s earthquake.

On Sunday morning, the area near Bologna in northern Italy was struck by a major earthquake with aftershocks occurring today.  Damage to historic buildings is significant and about seven people have died.  Information is still coming in but the latest on CNN (with many photos) is:

Northern Italy was shaken by an aftershock Monday morning, a day after a magnitude-6.0 quake killed at least seven people and left thousands of survivors huddling in tents or cars overnight.

Monday morning’s aftershock caused buildings to sway in the town of Finale Emilia, in Italy’s industrial heartland. The tremor had a magnitude of 3.2 and hit near the site of the original quake, according to the Italian Seismic Service.  The head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department, Franco Gabrielli, said 11,000 people had been displaced by the first quake around 4 a.m. (10 p.m. Saturday ET) on Sunday morning. . . .

Workers were still digging through rubble in hopes of finding survivors in Sant’Agostino, where the quake knocked down a church bell and a magnitude-4.8 aftershock brought down part of its city hall Sunday evening. “We have just lost our history. Four generations of my family lived here, and now it’s gone,” 72-year-old Luciano Frendo said as he walked through Finale Emila. “Our history has collapsed.”

According to Reuters yesterday:

The tremors seriously damaged many historic churches and other buildings, adding up to the greatest loss to Italy’s artistic heritage since an earthquake in 1997 ravaged the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, where the ceiling collapsed.

On Sunday, the imposing 14th-century Estense Castle, symbol of the town of San Felice Sul Panaro and its most important building, was severely damaged.

The tops of several of its smaller towers collapsed and there were fears that the main tower, weakened by cracks, could tumble. Three of the town’s churches were severely hit, damaging centuries-old frescoes and other works of art.

“We have practically lost all our artistic patrimony,” said Alberto Silvestri, mayor of San Felice. “Churches and towers collapsed. The theatre is still standing but has cracks.”

The quake left a gaping hole and gashes in the side of the Renaissance style town hall in Sant’Agostino, which officials said was in danger of total collapse. The town’s streets were strewn with rubble and the stench of gas filled the town and raised fears of explosions.

The only information on museums or collections I could find is on IBN Live (via Reuters):

San Felices’ three main churches were in ruins and the town’s trademark castle, La Rocca, was standing but wounded, perhaps fatally, by the 6.0 magnitude quake. ‘Its indescribable. There’s a lot of pain. La Rocca was our pride and joy,’ resident Manuela Monelli said as she cast a mournful eye over what was left of the castle. ‘And to think that we had been told that this was not a seismic area,’ she said. . . .Started in 1332 by the Este family and enlarged in the following century, La Rocca housed a museum and was the town’s main tourist draw. Only one of the castles four towers was left standing and a wide V-shaped crack in its brickwork suggested it too might fall, particularly as aftershocks continued, two of them as strong as magnitude 5.1. ‘If it doesn’t come down by itself they’ll have to pull it down,’ Monelli said. ‘It is the symbol of our town,’ said mayor Alberto Silvestri. ‘We have practically lost all our artistic heritage. Churches and towers collapsed. The theatre is still standing but has cracks.’
One church in San Felice, known as the Church of the Archpriest, practically imploded and is now only half its previous height. ‘We are thankful there were no casualties,’ said Simone Silvestri, a city council member, looking at the church surrounded by a sea of rubble. Among the art works in the church, and presumably destroyed or severely damaged, was a triptych painted on wood by 16th century artist Bernardino Loschi depicting the Madonna, St Geminiano and St Felice. Paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries used to adorn the sacristy. In the nearby town of Finale Emilia, a section of San Carlo church collapsed. It contained a painting by 17th century artist Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, who was known as Il Guercino.