Italian art, heritage churches damaged by quake
The Vatican has appealed to art experts around the world for help in restoring paintings and other treasures damaged by the Italian earthquake on Monday.
The 6.3-magnitude quake damaged bell towers, cracked walls and reduced some churches to piles of stones.
Also affected were many paintings hanging inside religious buildings, painted frescoes, and objects such as crucifixes, chalices and altars.
Francesco Buranella, a Vatican official, issued an appeal Wednesday to international restoration laboratories to adopt damaged objects and take on the job of restoring them.
Among the masterpieces destroyed were the gothic church of Maria di Collemaggio, built in the 13th century in the mountainous region of Abruzzo that was the epicentre of the quake.
The church, with an unusual facade of alternating pink and white tiles, is also the burial place of 13th-century "hermit pope" Celestine V, who was crowned there in 1294.
The bell tower of San Bernardino di Siena, a Renaissance-era church that survived another quake in 1703, has collapsed.
Porta Napoli, a gate built in 1548 to honour Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, also is just a pile of stones.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has promised a special fund to revive architectural treasures lost in the quake or in some of the 200 tremors that followed it.
He has also urged U.S. art experts to step forward to take a role in restoring artifacts.
Museum also damaged
L'Aquila, founded in the 13th century and located about 100 kilometres northeast of Rome, was an important urban centre in its heyday.
The National Museum of Abruzzo, housed in Forte Spagnolo, (the Spanish Fortress), a hilltop fort built by a former Spanish viceroy, was also damaged.
Officials don't know the extent of the damage inside the building because they don't dare enter for fear of further tremors.
They are forming a plan to remove art and artifacts from the museum.
Another church, San Liberatore a Maiella, rebuilt in the 11th century after being knocked to the ground in a quake in 990, survived intact.
Damage was so severe to L'Aquila's churches "that at the moment, none of them can be used" by the faithful, according to Rev. Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman.
The Vatican, also renowned for its restoration expertise, hopes to co-ordinate international efforts to restore Italian artifacts.
"Already we have received a series of emails from experts offering their willingness to sponsor" an artwork or other church treasure, he said.