News Italy

Community unites to rebuild clock tower destroyed by earthquake

Thousands of fragments of medieval Torre dei Modenesi are sifted

The lantern of the bell-tower of the Palatine Basilica of Santa Barbara, the Palace Church for the Gonzagas, collapsing during the earthquake (Photo: Mirko Di Gangi)

The Torre dei Modenesi, a 13th-century clock tower destroyed in May by the two powerful earthquakes that rocked the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, has become a symbol of the damage done to the country's heritage. Teams of volunteers from across the country have now travelled to the small town of Finale Emilia to help salvage, collect and catalogue fragments of the 32 metre high tower, with a view to restoring it to its former glory.

This is a contrast to the situation in the similarly quake-damaged city of l’Aquila, Italy, where more than three years on residents have still not been allowed to return to their homes.

Volunteers have so far sifted through around 7,000 fragments of the tower, from red terracotta bricks and pieces of the clock to parts of the bell itself. The fragments are being stored in pallets in the courtyards of local primary schools, and it is expected that they will be transferred to a warehouse for the winter, where they will be studied further.

A spokesperson for the Direzione Regionale per i Beni Architettonici e Paesaggistici (the regional arm of Mibac, the Italian ministry of culture) has acknowledged the presence of civilian volunteers in Finale but has also stated that the official response teams are still evaluating the widespread damage to the region’s heritage and are not specifically focusing on the tower at this time. He added, however, that where it is possible “our priority is to rebuild damaged sites with the original pieces”.

The volunteer operation has reportedly yielded some unexpected finds in the rubble, such as bricks inscribed with personal messages, spear- and arrowheads, remains of ancient ceramics, a 15th-century print of a crucifixion scene and even a brick containing a child’s footprint. Finale’s head of culture, Massimiliano Righini, has assured the Italian media that “we’ll get it done; the tower will become a museum unto itself”, although it is doubtful that it will be standing again in time to mark its 800th birthday in 2013.

Once they complete the task, the volunteers have vowed to help repair the damage inflicted to the Castello delle Rocche (also in Finale). The medieval castle was mainly built in the 15th century, but some of it dates to the 13th century.


From left: the old tower of Finale Emilia after the first tremor and later, after a strong aftershock caused it to collapse 20 May 2012 (Photo: Gazzetta di Modena)
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Comments

17 Sep 12
16:1 CET

JAMES AHERN, CORK

Hi I'm a builder /mason/bricklayer in Ireland can someone give me a contact email address for the rebuild of the clock tower Iwould like to get involved regards James

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