Bruno Zanardi

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Towards an Italian Cultural Heritage Anthology?

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What makes the artistic patrimony of Italy unique in the world is its infinite presence in the territory. But today, in two thirds of the roughly 8.100 Italian Comuni (municipalities) the population is in rapid decline; 3.000 of them are even on the way to extinction, which will inevitably lead to the abandonment to their own resources of churches, palaces and historic houses, not to mention the incomparable treasures they contain. Furhermore, the ever-declining number of priests in active service - the median age of the clergy being 60 - and the rapidly shrinking economic resources of the private owners (including the Church) mean there is now no more guarantee for the regular maintenance and protection of the enormous Italian artistic heritage owned by privates or by the Church : 70,000-80,000 churches, abbeys, sanctuaries etc., and about 40.000 historic mansions, containing an enormous amount (many millions) of frescoes, sculptures, canvases, panel paintings and the like. This situation however does not seem to alarm the Italian Government, which continues to behave as though the problem did not exist. However if its inaction continues, we will very soon become the witnesses to an auction to the highest bidder of the monuments and of the moveable artistic patrimony of this Country, and to the demolition or total abandonment of the rest. In other words, a drastic anthology is all that will be left of the greatest artistic patrimony of the Western World. And with cause, since 41 years after the foundation of the Istituto Centrale del Catalogo, no one is yet able to say of how many pieces this artistic patrimony consists, or where it is located.

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