Only a couple of weeks ago I blogged about Giotto’s lost frescoes in Naples which were destroyed by an earthquake in 1456. Now it seems that Giotto’s most important surviving cycle of wall paintings, the decoration of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, is in danger of suffering a similar fate – though in this case the danger is man-made: A major building project in the vicinity of the chapel is threatening its stability, and if the current plans are carried out, the chapel’s eventual collapse is a realistic possibility.
So earlier today a group of both Italian and international scholars have published a petition calling for construction work to be postponed and the planning of the new building(s) to be reassessed with regards to the delicate condition of the Scrovegni Chapel. To read the petition in its original Italian see here, here or here. I haven’t been able to find an English version of the petition yet,* so voilà, I just made one up myself:
This petition has been initiated by Alessandro Nova, Steffi Roettgen e Chiara Frugoni, and has been written by the latter.
Whoever wants to sign it may send an e-mail to professor Sergio Costa: firstname.lastname@example.org
Giotto’s frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua are running the risk of being destroyed because the highly delicate underlying hydro-geological condition will be inexorably altered by the planned construction of an Auditorium less than 200 metres from the chapel. In the same area, there is also a development plan for a skyscraper of 104 metres in height, and recently there has been completed a parking lot which means that a vast area of ground has been covered in concrete and the soil’s ability to absorb rainfall has been altered.
The results of a study – assigned to three engineers by the City Council – regarding the potential consequences the Auditorium’s construction would have on the surrounding area are indecisive, but they indicate that the deep stratum of the area of the Auditorium is connected with that of the Chapel. It is evident that one cannot entrust the safeguard of an environment to the design engineer of a new work, nor can one entrust him/her with the verdict on the probability that the Auditorium will damage the Chapel immediately or in years to come.
We request that before construction work on the Auditorium begins, the highest safeguard measures be carried out in the Chapel’s subsoil, if possible following an international competition.
How much are Giotto’s frescoes worth, compared to the benefits brought by the new buildings? Let’s not leave it solely to the Paduans to discuss their price, because they are priceless.
Francesco Aceto / Roberto Bartalini / Francesco Caglioti / Laura Cavazzini / Keith Christiansen / Maria Monica Donato / Vittorio Emiliani, per il Comitato per la Bellezza / Julian Gardner / Carlo Ginzburg / Maria Pia Guermandi, per Eddyburg / Donata Levi, per PatrimonioSos / Franco Miracco / Tomaso Montanari / Alessandra Mottola Molfino, per Italia Nostra / Alessandro Nova / Titti Panajotti, per Italia Nostra Padova / Giuseppe Pavanello / Antonio Pinelli / Giuliano Pisani / Serena Romano / Steffi Roettgen /Salvatore Settis / Giovanna Valenzano / Bruno Zanardi
Please be aware that neither Italian nor English is my native language and that geological terminology isn’t my strong suit in any language, so if you spot a mistake in my translation don’t hesitate to let me know – I’ll be happy to correct it.
Please also note that I just made up this translation on a whim and that it hasn’t been approved by the petition’s original authors – I’ll be happy, though, to substitute it with an official translation of the petition once/if one surfaces.
UPDATE February 7: There is now an official website, savegiotto.com, where you can sign the petition online.
* Some writers – especially on Twitter – who have already covered the subject earlier today have linked to this Petition to save Giotto’s frescoes in Padua on Artwatch – this, however is or rather was an entirely different petition and dates back to 1996…