by Alessandro Brunelli
The “Domus Dei Gladiatori”, an ancient Roman building which served both as armoury and training ground for gladiators in Pompei, near Napoli, collapsed early this morning.
Some paintings that were reportedly stored beneath the room might also have crushed under the weight of the stones.
The building was part of the UNESCO World Heritage, and its destruction comes as a severe blow to the Italian artistic wealth.
The custodians blamed the collapse on the heavy rain that fell in the area over the past few days, which caused infiltrations in the building, whereas the Soprintendenza Dei Beni Culturali, the authority in charge of preserving the site, also pointed out how the roof, which had been rebuilt in the 1950s following World War II bombings in the area, might have been too heavy for such an old building.
It is safe to say though, that, regardless of the actual reasons of the occurrence, the effort made to keep the area in good conditions has been scarce or non-existent over the past few years, as repeatedly denounced by the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera and local residents.
The Domus, along with several other buildings like the Spa or the Antiquarium, was closed to the general public despite the continuous flow of visitors in the area, which is visited by about 5000 tourists every day.
The funds allocated for the restoration works in Pompei amount to several millions of euros, and €548.000 had been earmarked for the Casa dei Vestii, a nearby building, which was supposed to be restored completely by the end of 2009 but has not been opened yet.
Sergio Bondi, the Culture Minister, affirmed that “This event shows the need for adequate resources in order to provide ordinary maintenance, which is necessary for the safeguard of the immense artistic heritage of which we dispose”.
However, according to Luisa Bossa, Democratic MP and mayor of the nearby city of Ercolano, Mr. Bondi had repeatedly ignored the complaints about the desperate state of the Pompei buildings during parliamentary discussions, and always defended the work of the appointed superintendents.