Assisi frescoes go back on show after seismic devastation

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The Independent Online
Part of the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi was opened to the public yesterday for the first time since earthquakes destroyed the priceless medieval frescoes on its vaulted ceilings two months ago.

Worshippers and tourists were allowed into the beautiful lower basilica where the body of St Francis is housed. "This is a sign of hope and of joy," said Fr Nicola Giandomenico, spokesman for the Franciscan friars who live in the church complex.

"Hope, for all the careful work that's being done to restore the building in its entirety; joy, for the fact our Franciscan community has been able to resume a normal life, finding an important space for spirituality."

The lower part of the church, which is covered in frescoes that include works by the 13th-century master Giotto, was untouched by twin earthquakes on 26 September.

But the tremors, which wrought havoc across much of central Italy, brought down a ceiling in the upper church, killing four people and reducing paintings by Giotto's near contemporary Cimabue to dust. Thousands of smaller tremors have hit the region since then and experts have warned that the cracks in the upper basilica could widen. The friars have said they hope to reopen the whole building in the year 2000.