Michelangelo's David 'could collapse due to high-speed train building'
Date: 8 Mar 2011 | | Views: 2539
Michelangelo’s statue of David is at risk of being toppled by the construction of a high-speed railway line beneath Florence because of his flimsy ankles.
Source: Telegraph (UK), by Nick Squires, Rome
The statue is riddled with tiny cracks, particularly in the ankles of the boy warrior, and could collapse as a result of vibrations from the 1.4 billion euro project, which is due to start in the summer.
The threat of serious damage being done to one of the world’s most famous statues has prompted calls for it to be moved to a purpose-built museum away from the construction work.
“The tunnel will pass about 600 meters (2,000ft) from the statue of David, the ankles of which, it is well known, are riddled with micro-fissures. If it’s not moved before digging begins, there is a serious risk that it will collapse,” said Fernando De Simone, an expert in underground engineering.
The cracks in the marble are mostly in David’s left ankle and in the carved tree stump which bears part of the statue’s weight.
They are thought to have developed because for more than a century the statue leant at an angle, and because the marble used in the statue was not of a high standard.
Florence is divided over plans to construct a four-mile-long train tunnel and a six-level underground train station as part of a project to improve the Tuscan city’s rail links with Rome and Milan.
Mr De Simone said the 17ft high statue was already under intense strain because of vibrations caused by the 1.5 million tourists who troop through Florence’s Accademia Gallery each year to see the work, and due to traffic in the streets surrounding the building.
“The risk of collapse... will be very high if the resonance caused by excavation machinery for the high-speed train tunnel, as well as the vibrations of passing trains, are added to existing vibrations caused by visitors,” said Mr De Simone.
He has called on Florentine authorities to move the statue from its current location to a specially-built new museum, which should be designed to withstand tremors from earthquakes.
Vittorio Sgarbi, a prominent Italian art critic, called for the train tunnel project to be shelved entirely. “Our heritage should come before everything else. The excavation work should not go ahead,” he said.
Cristina Acidini, an official in charge of Florence’s museums, said the Accademia Gallery was being tested by engineers for its ability to withstand earthquakes and that an assessment of the tunnel’s potential effect on David would be conducted at the same time.
Florence is in a region of Italy which is prone to earthquakes and has a recorded history of more than 120 tremors, although none reached more than five on the Richter scale.
Michelangelo spent three years creating the statue of David, the biblical hero who killed Goliath with a single stone from his slingshot. It was unveiled in the city’s Piazza della Signoria in 1504.
After concern that it was being damaged by grime and rain, it was moved in 1873 to the Accademia Gallery, with a replica placed in the square, outside the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s centuries-old seat of government.
The marble figure was commissioned by Florence’s rulers to symbolise the city state’s ability, despite its small size, to fight off bigger neighbouring powers.