It is a huge relief to hear that there have been no casualties from the 6.6-magnitude earthquake that hit central Italy this past Monday. However, there has been considerable destruction, some of it remarkably sad.
Norcia’s medieval St. Benedict Cathedral, among other treasured old structures, has been reduced to rubble by the quake. Though there’s no one to blame in cases of natural disaster, short of shaking your fist at the sky, it is nonetheless a great tragedy to lose such a beautiful hallmark of Italy’s rich cultural history.
In photos you can see the church’s beautiful old facade standing stoic and solo amid its own rubble. Each year, the recklessness of nature, the carelessness of humans, and the endless wear and tear of time defeat more and more classic and ancient architecture around the world. This church is just one of many, but it is also a striking symbol of how easily and quickly our history can be wiped away.
Italy’s cultural history is no more precious than in any other country, nor is its destruction any more tragic than the earthquake-rocked Bagan temples of Burma or the war-torn Umayyad Mosque complex of Syria. In fact, it is this very context of the world-wide phenomenon of lost culture, forgotten heritage, and damaged history that makes the destruction in Italy so poignantly sad.
We are our history, our culture, and our heritage. Losing a church as beautiful and as old as St. Benedict is, in a way, like losing a member of the community. And much like the loss of life, it can never truly be replaced.
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