Under the Tuscan Budget Crisis: Florence’s Churches at Risk

updated Thu. April 15 10:07 am
by Nicole Martinelli

Down the street from Michelangelo’s David but just far enough out of the public eye to be neglected, one of Italy’s most beautiful Renaissance churches, Santissima Annunziata, is being heavily damaged by a leaky roof, art historian James Beck denounced.

Italian media reported that it is ‘raining’ inside the church, but city council member Simone Siliani said there is no money for repairs. The city government is responsible for 12 churches; repairing the damage to this church would eat up 25% of the 2004 maintenance budget.

This is the latest alarm over the cost of keeping up the art-laden capital of Tuscany, though the cash crunch for maintaining art is felt by cities throughout Italy. In 2003, Monsignor Timothy Verdon, who works in the main Cathedral, denounced lack of upkeep as the “suicide” of Florence; in 2002 a bureaucratic snafu over an unpaid electricity bill threatened to turn lights off on works by Michelangelo, Botticelli and Leonardo in the Uffizi Gallery.

Architect Dario Notari, who visited the church to eye the damage, said the key can be found in the all-too-ordinary proportions of leaky patches visible in a chapel.

“What’s visible right now is not that serious,” Notari told zoomata. “That’s exactly the problem: we’re talking about damage that may be considerably more serious but not in a place that a sponsor is going to get much satisfaction from financing it.” Florence’s most recent restoration project, announced March 17, will be a one-of-a-kind fresco fixed up with Italian state lottery funds.

Beck has long protested over both methods and the media circus surrounding restorations in Italy. His website, ArtWatch International, shows photos of heavy water damage in Santissima Annunziata dated 2002. In an article titled ‘Where are the Friends of Florence Now?” Beck maintains that timely maintenance would have kept costs down and prevented further damage.

Built by architect Michelozzo in 1444, the church is not one of the city’s most famous but contains art treasures spanning the Renaissance including murals by Pontormo and Andrea del Sarto and paintings by Perugino and Andrea dal Castagno.

The church of Santissima Annunziata (Holy Annunciation) is especially important to Florentines. It is home to celebrations of the Annunciation, a church festival in commemoration of the announcement of the Incarnation to the Virgin Mary, that also marks the beginning of the local New Year. Florentines celebrated March 25 as the beginning of the year until 1749 and revived it as an historic commemoration in 2000. This year’s celebration, which featured a concert in the church and an art exhibit in the cloister, was a bittersweet one. @text/photos 1999-2007 zoomata.com

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Related resources:
Florence: a Delicate Case


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