Amatrice, in central Italy, is one of 25 at-risk sites on the 2018 World Monuments Watch. Compiled by the World Monuments Fund, the list aims to highlight heritage that is in danger of being lost to natural, economic or political threats.
A 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck Amatrice on August 24th 2016, killing 299 people and injuring hundreds more.
The town itself was devastated. Its mayor, once in charge of what billed itself “the most beautiful village in Italy”, announced: “Our town does not exist anymore”.
As aftershocks and smaller quakes continued to wrack the region, thousands of inhabitants left and remain in temporary shelter.
Today Amatrice is empty, still strewn with rubble. Just one of its historic landmarks survived: the bell tower of the medieval church of Sant’Emidio, which the World Monuments Fund called “an emblem of hope and resilience amid the devastation”.
Sant'Emidio's bell tower. Photo: MIBACT/World Monuments Fund.
The rest of the ruins need protection and reinforcement, the organization said. It also called for better preparedness everywhere that world heritage is at risk from natural disaster, including retrofitting historic buildings and keeping comprehensive records of precious assets.
Italy has a dedicated police unit for the protection of cultural heritage, known as the Art Squad. Its officers worked round the clock to recover, secure and restore more than 26,000 pieces of art damaged in the Amatrice earthquake and subsequent tremors.
Since 2002, the church of Sant’Emidio had housed the city’s museum. Photo: MIBACT/World Monuments Fund.
Seven years prior to that disaster an earthquake destroyed much of the 13th-century city of L’Aquila, prompting the World Monuments Fund to place it on its 2014 watch list.
Since then, the fund says, millions of euros have been pledged to help restore the town’s baroque treasures, but “the slow pace of reconstruction remains a cause for concern”.
The remains of Amatrice's Sant'Emidio church require structural stabilization and sheltering. Photo: MIBACT/World Monuments Fund.