Historic painting looted from earthquake-hit Italian town

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Historic painting looted from earthquake-hit Italian town
A crucifix in the rubble of a collapsed church in Norcia. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

While firefighters race to salvage precious artworks from the earthquake rubble, Italy's cultural heritage is at risk from both looters and bad weather.


A 17th century painting has been stolen from a church destroyed in the central Italy earthquakes, according to Italian media.

The artwork, 'Perdono di Assisi' was painted in 1631 by French artist Jean Lhomme. The painting, of historical and cultural importance, was kept in the parish church of Nottoria, a village close to Norcia, where the epicentre of one of the quakes was located.

Police are investigating the theft, but have not ruled out the hypothesis that the painting was taken in order to safeguard it against any future tremors.

Priest Marco Rufini told Rai News: "Our churches have been destroyed and they are full of artworks. This adds insult to injury."

Bad weather over the weekend has also caused worries in the towns; the mayor of Visso, Giuliano Pazzaglini, has warned that some crucial artworks are in danger.

One 15th century fresco in Visso's town hall, 'Madonna in Trono' by Paolo da Visso, survived the quake, but could be severely damaged by the rain.

Because the entire town is considered a 'red zone', recovering the fresco would be difficult, requiring a helicopter intervention which could further damage the painting by disturbing the surrounding debris. 

The 'Monuments Men' or 'red helmets', the firefighters tasked with saving Italy's cultural heritage, have been hard at work in the earthquake-struck zones, which are home to many works of art, particularly in the churches.

The fire service have shared videos and images of the rescue operations on their social media accounts, which can be viewed below.

Some of the relics saved include an urn containing the remains of Saint Benedict, the patron saint of Europe, and altar pieces and paintings.

Because of the age of the artworks, salvaging them is a delicate operation, and firefighters are also racing against time due to the risk of further damage in future tremors or inclement weather.

In Norcia, the operation to save the civil tower - which is being secured with straps - continues.

Monuments men, the red helmets who save art from the ruins of the earthquake. Exceptional images from today in Norcia.

The operation at San Francesco church is concluded: the altar piece by Jacopo Siculo, 1541 is saved.

Other cities around Italy have offered to host the artworks for safekeeping; a manuscript by poet Giacomo Leopardi is being kept in a Bologna museum, while the Saint Benedict urn will likely be housed in Assisi. 


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