If Italians Could Rebuild St. Marks Campanile After it Collapsed, They Surely Can Rebuild After the 2016 Earthquake
When people picture Venice, aside from the canals, they will inevitably think of the iconic Campanile in St. Marks Piazza. What they don't realize is the tower standing today was a replica... rebuilt after it collapsed in 1902 after suffering centuries of damage from earthquakes, rising water levels and lightning strikes. Its full height of 98 meters of brick and stone collapsed under its own weight into a huge pile of rubble in Piazza San Marco on a July morning... the only casualty, a cat.
The same evening, the Venice commune council voted to rebuild--stone by stone--exactly how it looked before the collapse. The work began in 1903 using the stone and brick from the original structure. The newly erected tower was rededicated in April of 1912. An amazing feat. But of course, even back then, the Campanile was one of the jewels of Venice... a premier stop on one's Grand Voyage through Europe. It was a money-maker, so there was no question about it being rebuilt ASAP.
Throughout history, historic structures have been cherished, ruined, loved and rebuilt by people who are proud of their own history. I have seen entire towns in Europe that have been rebuilt in historic accuracy even after World Wars. This bond in Italy is a powerful one which connects the everyday citizen to the ancient Romans, Greeks and Etruscans. Today, after the horrific loses in both life and architectural history from the earthquake of two days ago, Italians have to band together and come to a conclusion that the losses of such beautiful and historic treasures such as Amatrice (the "Town of 100 Churches") and other hill towns in the effected area are totally unacceptable.
For example, Amatrice was voted one of Italy’s most beautiful towns last year and was cherished for its Cento Chiese (100 churches) filled with frescoes, mosaics and sculptures. Half the facade of the 15th-century church of Sant’Agostino has collapsed, taking with it the beautiful rose window.
They should not allow these historic gems to suffer the same fate as other earthquake damaged towns that have come before them.... turning them into de facto ghost towns. After all, many of these, although beautiful in their own right, were fairly poor without the deep pockets of the likes of Venice.
But I argue that rebuilding and restoration of these historic structures and villages should be done as a tribute to the souls lost in this tragedy. I have seen the pride on Italians faces all over Italy for the wonderful little hilltowns they live in. Each is unique in some way--and all have enormous beauty. The people whose lives were lost can never be brought back, but Italy should band together and give tribute to them by rebuilding the homes they treasured so much... where they lived, laughed, sang, ate wonderful local food, held their sagre (festivals), raised their children, honored their ancestors and eventually lost their lives to a cruel act of Mother Nature.
Here are some photos of what the three hardest towns used to look like--before the quake...
Rebuild these towns. No more ghost towns. Honor the memories and lives of all who left their homes this week for all eternity. Never forget. Do not abandon those left behind...
Copyright 2016, Jerry Finzi/Grand Voyage Italy - All Rights Reserved
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