Crumbling Capitals: Guarini in Modena

Screenshot of capital, Modena

View of the damaged corner capital at the Theatine casa of San Vincenzo, Modena (begun 1675)
Source: Screenshot from Gazzetta di Modena

Last week, the Gazzetta di Modena reported that portions of a capital and cornice crumbled and fell to the ground at the Tribunale di Modena (courthouse) on 9 June. Fortunately no one was injured. The building was originally built in the late 1670s as the Theatine house of San Vincenzo, according to designs by Guarino Guarini. The building is the sole example of Guarini’s architecture in his native city.

A later report in the same newspaper – while containing some inaccuracies about the date of the building and the date of the accident – quoted the administrative director of the building, Luigina Signoretti. She claimed the building had not received necessary maintenance since the Modena earthquake of 2012.

This current evidence of neglect at the historic San Vincenzo ensemble in Modena comes nearly two years after Guercino’s Madonna with the Saints John the Evangelist and Gregory the Wonderworker (1639) was stolen from the adjacent church. Although different authorities administer the courthouse and church, the incidents underscore the fatal combination of bureaucracy, indifference, and lack of funding for preserving Italian cultural heritage, particularly for monuments with a low profile outside major tourist centers.

Such neglect is by no means confined to isolated incidents in smaller towns such as Modena: last month, the Stampa reported crumbling facade elements at the popular sanctuary of the Consolata in Turin, where both Guarini and Filippo Juvarra worked.

Unfortunately, corporate partnerships such as those that recently funded restoration of the Trevi Fountain (Fendi) or the Spanish Steps (Bulgari, work underway) do not seem a viable strategy for preservation of the vast majority of Italian heritage sites. In the case of the Consolata and the Modena building, perhaps concern for public safety will finally convince the authorities to invest in necessary upkeep.

Related links

Modena Court Expands in Guarini Building (June 2013)
Guarini Sites Outside Turin