European prize to restoration of basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio

Politecnico di Milano took part in the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra 2020's winning project

The European Commission and Europa Nostra have announced the 2020 winners of the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards, Europe’s top honour in the heritage field.

Amongst this year's winners, the restoration of the basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio at L'Aquila, in the category Conservation

The return of the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio to the community of L’Aquila in December 2017 marked a watershed moment in the long process of recovery following a tragic earthquake that hit the region on 6 April 2009. Since the disaster, the Basilica has become an important place for the entire community to gather and has acted as a site of commemoration and celebration.

The Superintendency for Archaeological, Artistic and Architectural Heritage and Landscape for L’Aquila and its Seismic Crater carried out the project with a team of representatives from three Italian universities – Sapienza” Università di RomaPolitecnico di Milano and Università dell’Aquila – and supervised the complex two-year works. The restoration work was the result of a successful institutional collaboration by the Ministry of Culture, Heritage and Tourism, the Diocese of L’Aquila and the Municipality of L’Aquila (the owner of the Basilica), which in 2013 signed the ‘Ripartire da Collemaggio’ protocol with ENI as a sponsor.

The jury, announcing the award, observed:

This intervention truly represents the rebirth of a city, the strong sense of spirituality and the participation of the community in this project must be considered as an integral piece of the whole. The entire project is based on a public-private partnership and involved the collaboration of three different universities. It has been carried out with an exemplary scientific basis relating to the seismic vulnerability of the building.

The collapsed clustered pillars were reconstructed as a pivot of a new and more resistant structural scheme, and the stone cladding restored, reusing the recovered blocks as a covering. The nave’s octagonal pillars were restored by dismantling and reassembling the irreparable ones by replacing the badly damaged stones and inserting threaded metal bars. The arches, walls and the collapsed roof were each rebuilt. The floor, crushed under the fallen debris, was carefully recomposed. The Baroque organ, which had suffered extensive damage during the earthquake, has also been recovered and reinstated in the Basilica. The frescoes, dating from the 13th-15th centuries, have been consolidated and restored, as well as the baroque marble altars and the stucco work of the side-chapels.

In addition to the coordination of the entire project support group by prof. Stefano Della Torre, the Politecnico di Milano gave the contribution of a large interdisciplinary team, who worked for the survey and three-dimensional modelling, dynamic analysis and consolidation solutions, the study of the construction site also through 3D simulations, the design of an innovative sustainable heating system. The project marked a first application of the informative digital modelling in the field of restoration.

The restoration of the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio required not only the most advanced methodologies in the conservation of built heritage, but also respect for its special place in the cultural life of the community of L’Aquila.

The comprehensive approach taken to address the consequences of a natural disaster, including both the building and its contents, is exemplary. It is also notable that the programme includes the maintenance and monitoring of the building. The project is a model of best practice in the conservation of critically damaged sites all over the world”.

Heritage lovers and supporters from Europe and all around the world can vote online for their favourite award winners and decide which achievement will win this year’s Public Choice Award, that will be announced in the autumn.

For more information: Collemaggio project's websiteVideo

Photos: © SABAP-AQ licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0