Italy quake damages old churches, Roman baths

Mon Apr 6, 2009 12:33pm EDT
 
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ROME (Reuters) - The earthquake in central Italy on Monday has badly damaged several historic churches and other heritage sites, the Culture Ministry said.

At least four Romanesque and Renaissance churches and a 16th century castle were partially destroyed by the quake centered in the medieval city of L'Aquila, the ministry said.

Part of the nave of the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, one of the area's most famous churches, collapsed.

The church, with a pink-and-white facade combining Romanesque and Gothic architecture, hosted the crowning of Pope Celestine V in 1294 and attracts thousands of pilgrims every year.

To the north, the belltower of the lavish Renaissance Basilica of San Bernardino also crumbled.

The mountain city of L'Aquila has a history of powerful earthquakes, and was almost wiped out by one in 1703.

Monday's quake, which killed scores of people, was so powerful that its effects were felt in the capital Rome, 100 km (60 miles) to the west.

The city's superintendent for archaeology said the Baths of Caracalla -- the Roman public baths built between AD 212 and 216 and a popular tourist attraction -- had suffered some damage.

(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

 
<p>An Italian military carabinieri walks on debris past destroyed buildings after an earthquake, in downtown Aquila April 6, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi</p>