Restoration work begins on Norcia St Benedict Basilica

Earthquake damage to Norcia's Basilica of St Benedict

 NORCIA -- Firefighters have begun the operations to return the façade of the Saint Benedict Basilica back to a secure state in this earthquake-stricken town, civil protection workers said Monday.

 The building’s façade was damaged but managed to stay upright after the strong Oct. 30 earthquake, which made the rest of the church structure -- one of the town’s defining buildings -- crumble almost completely.

 Firefighters are working to shore up the façade with wooden supports mounted at its base. The ruins of the basilica were instead covered with wooden trestles and big sheets of black plastic on top, in order to protect what is left.

 Italian president Sergio Mattarella, on visiting Norcia a few days after the Oct. 30 early-morning quake, was particularly saddened by the damage to the basilica -- “a particular cause of grief is the crumbling of the Saint Benedict Basilica and we must reconstruct it how it was before.”

 “I promise dedication and hard work until the end, Norcia will return to how it was, it will be a long process and will take time,” the president of the Republic said.

 The inside of the church was made up of a Latin Cross structure and had undergone various modifications throughout the course of the centuries so did not have one single style. Instead it has Romantic, Gothic and Baroque elements that coexist together -- an architectural testament to this particular fusion of styles.

 Paintings by local painters showing different aspects of the life of Saint Benedict had covered the walls of the church.

 The façade of the basilica, which has been restored many times already, is majestic -- adorned with a rose window, symbols of the four evangelists, and a portal richly-decorated with reliefs and statues.

 The basilica had managed to withstand the Aug. 24 central-Italian quake but did not survive this time around. It was an architectural jewel of central Italy and has now become a symbol of the crumbling and suffering of the town.

 Along with the Saint Benedict Basilica, Norcia’s Cathedral of Saint Mary Argentea also crumbled -- the two cult Catholic symbols of the town. “It is as if the whole city has come down…,” said Giuseppina Perla, Norcia’s municipal councillor.