The medieval gem reduced to ruins ( L'Aquila)





The city struggling to come to terms with the massive destruction of its ancient fabric was founded in 1254 by order of Corrado IV, the son of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. The importance to the city of the emperor's patronage is clear: L'Aquila means "The Eagle", a reference to the emperor's coat of arms.

The emperor had accepted the petitions of local people who wanted a city to protect them from the depredation of local barons, and was formed by bringing together "99 villages", or so the legend claims. As such it was the first and only planned city of medieval Italy. In the eighteenth century, the town's resistance to French occupation led to the town being sacked – but it rose to prominence again a hundred years later, as Italy's unification made it the regional capital. Just 60 miles north-east of Rome, it nestles between four peaks in the Apennine range, in the Aterno-Pescara valley.

Until yesterday much of the ancient core of this city of some 70,000 people remained intact, despite the earthquakes that have repeatedly left their mark over the centuries. But how much will survive the latest one remains to be seen.


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