St Mark’s Basilica calls for help to save mosaic floor after Venice flood causes ’20 years of damage in a day’

Venice’s most famous cathedral is calling for urgent funding to save its precious marble and mosaic floor after surging floodwaters did decades of damage in a day. 

St Mark’s Basilica, which attracts more than five million visitors a year, was filled with nearly three feet of water at the end of October in some of the worst flooding seen in the Lagoon City since 1872.

Carlo Alberto Tesserin, the basilica’s administrator, or procurator, said the church had “aged 20 years in a day” and estimates initial repairs will cost €2.7 million (£2.5 million). 

In a statement released at the weekend,  the procurator’s office said the 1000-year-old basilica had already invested some of its own funds to get the restoration of the decorative floor started but appealed for assistance from the national government for more.

“The procurator’s office is ready to spend and has already begun with around €700,000 (£612,000), but St Mark’s procurator’s office is asking for a specific undertaking from the Italian government for the remaining €2 million (£1.7 million) ,” the office said in a statement.

"We believe the government, which had promised to protect St. Mark’s and the entire city of Venice from tidal flooding, must provide urgent funding, to safeguard the universal heritage of Venice.”

Tourists and residents were forced to wear high boots to make their way across the streets and narrow alleys of Venice for several days at the end of October as the city was inundated with “acqua alta”, or high water, which rose more than five feet above sea level. 

Torrential rains and heavy winds swept across Italy last month, killing 29 people and caused widespread damage. 

Pierpaolo Campostrini, the engineer responsible for maintaining the cathedral, said he was particular concerned about the long-term effects of the latest flood damage.

“We have to conduct a full diagnosis, restoration wherever possible and put measures in place to stop this from happening again,” he told The Telegraph. "There is a cycle of risk as the instance of flooding has increased and the basilica is at the lowest point in Venice.”

He appealed to the government to follow through with stalled measures to protect St Mark’s Square in front of the basilica and complete the MOSE, a controversial engineering project designed to prevent flooding in the Venice lagoon. 

The project has been dogged by delays and corruption and is due to be completed in 2022.

Paola Mar, Venice’s tourism councilor, said the 11th century cathedral was a symbol of the World-Heritage listed city and loved by residents as well as tourists.

“Fortunately none of the artworks were damaged,” Ms Mar told The Telegraph. “The problem is the floor because it has suffered corrosion from the salt in the water which also leached into the cracks between the mosaics.”

October’s flood was the worst seen in Venice since 1966, when floodwaters reached a height of more than 6 feet. 


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