Three more walls collapse at Pompeii

Collapsed stretch of garden wall ringing Pompeii's House of the MoralistFirst the Schola Armaturarum turned to rubble 3 weeks ago. Then on Tuesday a garden wall near the House of the Moralist came down. Today 2 more walls have crumbled, one along the Via Stabiana and another in the House of the Small Lupanar, one of the smaller brothels in town.

This most recent damage to these walls didn’t result in major structural collapse like what happened to the Schola. The garden wall near the House of the Moralist was a rebuild done after US bombers knocked down the ancient structure in World War II. The wall along the Stabiana was an unconnected stretch about 6.5 by 10 feet long; the House of the Small Lupanar lost a chunk of wall in a side room that was not open to the public. None of them were decorated.

The immediate culprit appears to have been continuing torrential rains. The pressure from the water buildup in the embankment behind the Schola overwhelmed its already shaky structure. Now it seems the rain has an agenda to test every wall in town, and since all of these walls have been a) volcanoed all over, b) shoddily excavated from the 16th century onwards, and c) copiously bombed, there’s not a huge amount of environmental pressure they can take.

Then there’s the politics of it all.

There has been an international outcry over the state of the UNESCO World Heritage site and opposition parties have tabled a no-confidence motion in Culture Minister Sandro Bondi.

The minister has pledged to set up a new foundation to better channel funds and manage conservation at the ruins, one of Italy’s most-visited tourist sites.

After the collapse at the House of the Moralist – so-called because of the strict rules of etiquette inscribed on its walls – Bondi also rejected “useless alarmism”.

The wall was not the original one, he noted, but put up after the war to replace the Roman structure wrecked by US Air Force bombing in September 1943.

But Italy’s Cultural Heritage Observatory said “this further collapse shows there is not a moment to lose to implement initiatives to conserve the extremely fragile site”.

Superintendent Papadopoulos said Pompeii is at constant risk from bad weather and all its uncovered walls could crumble if the recent spate of torrential rain continues.

A UNESCO team is due to arrive in Pompeii tomorrow to assess the conservation needs of the site, with a particular eye to identifying the most urgent threats and determining what measures should be taken to prevent any further incidents.

Bondi has announced the creation of a new organization where culture ministry officials and archaeological experts will work together to sort out how to better manage the funds Pompeii generates. The ancient city sees a million tourists a year and takes in $70 million. That should be enough to maintain the site properly so masonry doesn’t collapse 4 times a month, even when the month is an exceptionally rainy one.

His political opponents are not impressed.

The centre-left opposition was not impressed by the minister’s report and the two main groups, the Democratic Party and Italy of Values (IdV), announced their no-confidence motion aimed at bringing him down.

“Bondi has done more damage than Vesuvius,” the IdV claimed.


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