Venzone (IT) - a medieval village in Friuli remembers the earthquake of May 6th 1976
Dr. Birgit Stegbauer
Earthquakes happen but extremely rarely in this region. However, whenever they strike, they do so with devastating power. When on May 6th 1976 an earthquake shook Friuli, it caused almost 1000 fatalities and left half a million people without homes. The epicenter then was north of Udine in the Channel Valley (Val Canale) and one of the hardest hit towns was Venzone. Today Venzone is an example of how to master a catastrophe and turn it into a success story: The 1976 earthquake is now a major tourist attraction of the city!
Let me start with the museum Tiere Motus. It is dedicated to the history of the earthquake and the people it affected. It reminds us of 05-06-1976, the big losses and the suffering of the people of Venzone. It also shows the efforts made by the people to accurately rebuild their hometown in all its details. The tour ends in a hall where the collapse of the town's cathedral is simulated in a multi media show.
The cathedral, dedicated to St. Andreas, was originally built between 1300 and 1338. The stone sculptures above the portals are impressive examples of the high gothic style. In the exterior one sees the damage caused by the earthquake and the reconstruction the cathedral underwent, but the damage is even more evident in the cathedral's interior. Only fragments of the rich high gothic frescoes have survived; all that is left of the main altar are its base and broken columns; and all of the walls have had to be visibly repaired.
The churches of San Giovanni Battista and Santa Chiara, both destroyed in 1976, remain ruins - they are open wounds in the city, memorials of the earthquake. The loggia of the town hall (Palazzo Comunale), a gothic palace from the 15th century with an outdoor flight of steps, houses a photo exhibition. It shows what the village looked like before and after the earthquake, and then after the reconstruction work.
And yet, Venzone is a place to spend a relaxing Sunday afternoon. The little medieval town, which enjoyed its most prosperous period between the 13th and 15th century, is surrounded by a double town wall with gates and battlements and a deep moat. The streets within the town walls are almost car-free. All tourist attractions are within short walking distance. Coffee tables at the town hall square invite you to take an aperitif or have an ice-cream. The chapel of St. Michael next to the cathedral has a crypt that houses five mummies (1,50 EUR tokens to be purchased at the local bars) - my sons were deeply impressed! There is also a playground for smaller children between the cathedral, the chapel of St. Michael and the town walls.
It's good to know:
33010 Venzone (IT)
Friday 3 pm until 7 pm Saturday and Sunday: 9 am until 1 pm and 3 pm until 7 pm
5 EUR/adults, 4 EUR/kids 12 and older, younger kids free