2014 World Monuments Watch
High in the hills overlooking the Aterno River, and surrounded by medieval walls, sits the thirteenth-century city of L’Aquila. The city flourished in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries as an important trading center for wool and saffron. It was conquered and fortified by the Spanish in the early sixteenth century, and was rebuilt largely in the baroque style after an earthquake hit the area in 1703. The city was organized in quarters around a series of squares and churches, though modern development over the last two centuries has modified its medieval urban structure.
Tragically, the historic center was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 2009 and sustained severe damage to its main squares and churches. At the time of the site’s inclusion on the 2014 World Monuments Watch, the city center was still a “red zone” and was mostly inaccessible due to strict safety regulations. Many of the local civic, religious, and social buildings were unusable, and the residents of the city center were living in temporary housing outside of the damaged area. The site was included on the Watch in order to raise awareness about the serious situation that persisted in L’Aquila several years after the disaster. Without proper repair and restoration of its historic core, the city would lose important cultural heritage as well as significant economic and community assets. While disaster response can be a long and difficult process, the preservation community must continue to call for recovery and revitalization of the historic center.
In May 2014 an exhibition and conference were held to raise awareness about the historic center of L’Aquila. Presenters discussed conservation of the town center’s historic fabric and attendees participated in guided tours of the site.
Since the Watch
A number of conservation projects are ongoing in the historic center of L'Aquila, but the slow pace of reconstruction remains a cause for concern. In September 2014, Eni S.p.A., Italy’s leading energy company and one of the world’s largest, announced €12 million in funding for the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, a large medieval church located at the edge of the historic town. The project involves restoration and partial reconstruction of the heavily damaged church, and is to be directed by the Superintendence for Architectural and Landscape Heritage of Abruzzo. It benefits from the participation of the Polytechnic University of Milan, Rome’s Sapienza University, and the University of L’Aquila, as well as of experts in geology and engineering from Eni. The project is scheduled for completion in 2017. In May 2016, the town of L’Aquila received €30 million for the restoration of its built heritage, including the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, the medieval city walls, and other structures.