words by Elizabeth Ganley-Roper
Experts claim that one of the most important monuments in the history of art, the fresco cycle in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, is currently under threat. Painted by Giotto between 1303 and 1305, the frescoes, may be damaged by the construction of a musical auditorium just 200 meters away. Experts are concerned that the delicate hydro-geological situation of the area could be altered to the point of presenting a threat to the precious frescoes.
The auditorium, designed by the Austrian architect Klaus Kad, will resemble a huge white cube, large enough to seat 1,300 spectators. In the same area, there are also plans to build a 104 metres high skyscraper while a parking lot, which has recently been completed, has already affected the absorption levels of rainfall into the ground.
Last year, the Comune of Padua, entrusted three engineers with the investigation of the potential threats to the Scrovegni Chapel. The findings conclude that the aquifer under the Cappella and the one under the area where the Auditorium should be built are connected and special attention to the problem is needed beforehand.
Numerous movements have sprung up protesting against the construction of the nearby buildings in order to protect Giotto’s masterpieces. Art historian Chiara Frugoni has written an appeal and the site savegiotto.com is collecting signatures demanding the utmost protection of the Chapel’s underground foundations.
The appeal wonders: “How much are Giotto’s frescoes worth, compared to the benefits brought by the new buildings? Let’s not leave the citizens of Padua alone to discuss the price, because there is no price”.