6.6-Magnitude Earthquake in Central Italy Destroys Historic Buildings

On Sunday morning, central Italy was hit by the country’s most violent earthquake since 1980.

Norcia's San Benedetto
Norcia’s Basilica of St. Benedict, destroyed on Sunday in a 6.6 magnitude earthquake (photo by @rtlaktuell/Instagram)

On Sunday morning, central Italy was hit by the country’s most violent earthquake since 1980. No immediate reports of deaths have emerged as a result of the 6.6-magnitude quake, which followed two tremors on October 26, but it has displaced thousands of residents whose homes no longer stand completely in tact. The force of the quake also destroyed a number of historic buildings, most notably the 14th-century basilica of San Benedetto in the medieval town of Norcia.

“The Basilica of St. Benedict, the historic church built atop the birthplace of St. Benedict, was flattened by this most recent quake,” the Benedictine monks in charge of the building confirmed in a statement, sharing a photo of the collapsed structure. “May this image serve to illustrate the power of this earthquake, and the urgency we monks feel to seek out those who need the Sacraments on this difficult day for Italy.”

The basilica now retains only its facade. Its Gothic nave has been reduced to rubble, previously having suffered damages from the recent deadly earthquake that struck the region in August. The monks had been in the midst of fundraising to rebuild the basilica, two monasteries, and a brewery they run — an endeavor expected to cost $7.5 million. As the Guardian reported, the basilica housed two 17th-century paintings, one by Filippo Napoletano of St. Benedict and another by Vincenzo Manetti depicting the Madonna. Walls in its crypt also featured diamond-shaped brickwork and traces of 14th-century frescoes.

According to the Washington Post, Norcia’s 16th-century church of St. Mary Argentea, famous for 15th-century frescoes, also collapsed. The monks also wrote in a separate statement that the Church of the Madonna Addolorata was destroyed.

“All the churches in Norcia are on the ground,” the Fr. Benedict wrote. “Every single one. The roofs caved in on all of them; they are no more. What remains of them are a few corners, a facade, a window with the sun coming through from the wrong side. Inside are ‘bare ruin’d choirs’ as Shakespeare wrote of the destroyed monasteries in his time.”

The San Salvatore church in Campi (screenshot via Google Street View)

In Campi, the 15th-century San Salvatore church was also “shattered,”  as the Post reported, and Rome’s Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, one of the city’s four major basilicas, suffered cracks on its facade and its cornices have crumbled.  And the town of Amatrice lost a tower and St. Augustine church, according to the Guardian.

“We will rebuild everything,” Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said, “the houses, the churches, the shops. We are dealing with marvelous territories, territories of beauty.”

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