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AKIPRESS.COM - The worst earthquake to hit Italy in three decades has added troubling cracks to the Colosseum, threatening the country’s most popular historic landmark, according to The Telegraph.
Francesco Prosperetti, the special superintendent for the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, said that each earthquake put ever more dangerous strain on the 2,000-year-old arena.
“With the earthquake the cracks are increasing,” Prosperetti said.
The 6.5-magnitude earthquake that shook central Italy at 7.40 am on Sunday left more than 25,000 people homeless and caused widespread destruction in around 100 towns in central Italy. It was the latest in a string of earthquakes to hit the country since August 24, when nearly 300 people died in a 6.2-magnitude quake.
Cultural officials are still counting the cost of the destruction to around 5,000 churches, bell towers, historic buildings and ancient walls brought down by the recent earthquakes.
The latest quake also damaged several churches and buildings in the heart of Rome. St Paul’s Outside the Walls, a historic basilica and popular Christian pilgrimage site, was closed to the public on Sunday after cracks appeared in its façade and cornices fell from the ceiling.
Schools were also closed in Rome on Monday as mayor Virginia Raggi ordered security checks amid reports that one in five schools buildings may have been damaged.
Prosperetti said a thorough inspection had been conducted at the Colosseum immediately after Sunday’s earthquake.
He said while some material had fallen on the top level of the ancient amphitheater, that damage had been caused well before the earthquake and that particular area overlooking the Palatine Hill was already closed to the public.
Experts scoured historic sites including the Roman Forum, the Baths of Caracalla and the Pantheon as well as the Colosseum which was declared safe and opened to tourists on Sunday.
Alessandro D’Alessio, an archeologist who works with the superintendent’s office, said the ancient Romans were well aware of the impact of earthquakes and incorporated that in their construction.
“The [Colosseum] arches are the best structures to absorb movements and vibrations,” he said. “The ancient Romans knew the earthquakes of the Appenines well... Cicero and Tacitus (Roman writers) also wrote that the tremors made swords and shields vibrate. But the most feared quakes were those that came from the Castelli region (outside Rome).”
The Colosseum, built in 80 AD, is the largest Roman amphitheater in the world and was once covered in blood during bitter gladiatorial contests that captivated ancient Rome. These days it attracts more than five million visitors a year.
But the ancient arena has been shaken by earthquakes several times over the centuries and suffered severe damaged in 1349 earthquake which brought down the south side of the amphitheater.
It was also damaged by another earthquake in 1703 even though the epicenter of the quake was in the neighboring region of Abruzzo.
Tomaso Montanari, an art historian and leading critic, said the cultural cost of the quakes was immense and more should have been done to protect buildings and churches.
"The loss of our roots means we have lost the future,” Professor Montanari said. “In Italy the stones, the buildings, the churches and the artworks are the backbone of the country.”