War Damage to Monuments and Works of Arts in Italy

Despite the destruction suffered by our country due to the war, the overall wealth of the Italian artistic heritage, compared to its grandeur, does not appear – even after the Second World War – notably impaired and Italy undoubtedly continues to be the country of the world. richer in monuments and works of art from the past.

In Italy, the subsequent phases of the conflict are also reflected in the topographical distribution of the losses suffered in the artistic field. The first to be hit by the great air and naval bombardments were the major cities of northern and southern Italy, considered important port and industrial railway centers. Then, when the war moved to the national territory, it can be said that from Sicily to the Gothic line there was no inhabited center that did not pay its painful contribution to the war.

In any case, speaking of losses in the artistic field, first of all it is necessary to distinguish between works of art and monuments that have been completely destroyed and works of art and monuments that are only partially damaged or demolished, for which restoration is required and is performed. And in this second case it is necessary to consider to what extent a mutilated or only wounded work of art, despite the most prudent restorations, is crippled by those scars or mutilations that logically affect its values.

In the first group, those works so highly representative of our artistic civilization would not seem excessively numerous, the loss of which really modifies the terms of an evaluation of it, or, in any case, erases a significant page of our history of art. But also in this case it is the evaluation criteria that determine a greater or lesser extension of the list. In it, however, the destruction of the frescoes by Mantegna at the Eremitani of Padua, the loss of such a large part of the material of the Archaeological Museum of Ancona, the destruction of many ancient paintings of the unearthed houses of Pompeii, the mosaics of the ancient apses of the Cathedral of Messina, the ceilings painted by Tiepolo in Palazzo Valmarana in Vicenza in Palazzo Archinti and in the Sacristy of S. Ambrogio in Milan. More rare is the case, and certainly for works that are not always as significant, of completely canceled large architectures, such as the bridge of Capua, the cathedral of Benevento, the church of S. Maria in Flumine in Ceccano, the bell tower of S. Piero a Grado, the S. Biagio di Forlì or the church of S. Maria in Porto Fuori in Ravenna. And the Santa Trinità bridge in Florence itself should not be placed in the list, of which today only the dismantled pylons can be seen, because the fragments of its stones have also been recovered and everything was already measured and detected before the disaster occurred, so that it can be reassembled. The same goes for many sculptures, although, in that field,

Thousands are instead partially demolished monuments and damaged works of art. Overall, the Directorate General for Antiquities and Fine Arts, through its peripheral bodies, the superintendencies, intervened, also bringing its financial contribution, in the restoration of over 800 monumental buildings and in many other cases it had to limit its work issuing directives to entities and individuals who, on their own behalf, undertook the restoration of buildings of artistic interest but owned or pertaining to them.

It should also be borne in mind that, for the most part, the movable works of art that were part of public collections, museums, churches, many institutions and individuals were promptly removed from their usual homes and moved to places that could be considered safe.. This is due to the fact that that part of our artistic heritage has suffered only very slight losses. For those that could not be removed as for many frescoes and sculptures, protections were devised in situ which, as in the case of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper in S. Maria delle Grazie in Milan, have sometimes demonstrated their providential efficiency. (For details, see the items dedicated to regions and cities in this Appendix).

Arts in Italy