Italy's cultural treasures 'vanishing'


The director of the Vatican museums has warned that Italy’s cultural heritage is “vanishing” after prosecutors in Naples said two more people had been arrested on suspicion of taking part in a “brutal” sacking of the city’s 16th century Girolamini library.

Antonio Paolucci said he was “saddened but not surprised” by the devastating losses at the historic institution, where thousands of rare and antique books were last year found to have disappeared. The alleged plundering, which prosecutors have been investigating for the past nine months, was symptomatic of a country whose cultural heritage was at risk.

“Our immense national heritage is vanishing . . . and the cultural fabric of the country is coming apart,” Mr Paolucci, a former culture minister, told La Stampa.

Most at risk, he said, were small institutions that did not have the same level of security as, for instance, the Uffizi gallery in Florence.

‘Disaster for humanity’

Urging the state to take better care of its heritage, he added: “Every looted painting or plundered library is a wound to civilisation which cannot be healed – a disaster for Italy and humanity as a whole.”

The allegations of theft on a grand scale from the Girolamini library surfaced last year, when visiting art historian Tomaso Montanari found the institution in disarray, with precious volumes piled up beside cans and other detritus.

Its former director, Massimo Marino de Caro, was later arrested, accused of plundering the library for its rare works and selling them on. Investigators say more than 4,000 books may have been stolen, including works by Galileo and a 1518 edition of More’s Utopia. – (Guardian service)