Italy Strives To Return To Normalcy By Repairing Artwork Damaged From Quake (SLIDESHOW)

The April 6 earthquake in L'Aquila, Italy, damaged more than just homes and buildings, it affected the culture of the region. Old churches and schoolhouses were destroyed, homes were ruined, and the life of each townsperson was affected. While the children are returning to school in makeshift tent-schoolhouses, life is not completely normal. One of the main culture areas affected by the large quake was art.

The New York Times explains that a return to normalcy requires a restoration of the region's cultural artwork:

Italy is not like America. Art isn't reduced here to a litany of obscene auction prices or lamentations over the bursting bubble of shameless excess. It's a matter of daily life, linking home and history. Italians don't visit museums much, truth be told, because they already live in them and can't live without them. The art world might retrieve a useful lesson from the rubble.

"Without the culture that connects us to our territory, we lose our identity," [Milko Morichetti] said. "There may not be many famous artists or famous monuments here, but before anything, Italians feel proud of the culture that comes from their own towns, their own regions. And when we restore a church or a museum, it gives us hope. This is not just about preserving museum culture. For us, it's about a return to normalcy."

Many significant churches and museums in the region were destroyed or badly ruined from the 6.3-magnitude quake, and Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has pledged funding to restore the architecture and art that was lost. Canada's CBC News has a roundup of a few buildings that were damaged:

Among the masterpieces destroyed were the gothic church of Maria di Collemaggio, built in the 13th century in the mountainous region of Abruzzo that was the epicentre of the quake.

The bell tower of San Bernardino di Siena, a Renaissance-era church that survived another quake in 1703, has collapsed.

Porta Napoli, a gate built in 1548 to honour Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, also is just a pile of stones.

This past week the Vatican stepped in to support an initiative to "adopt" damaged artworks, Adn Kronos International news reports.

The Vatican has welcomed the positive response from art professionals and cultural institutions who are willing to "adopt" works of art damaged by last week's earthquake in central Italy. The appeal was launched via the Italian news agency Adnkronos by Francesco Buranelli, a senior Vatican official in charge of the church's cultural heritage.

"We have had instant support both from public institutions as well as private workshops. Support has been expressed both verbally and in writing. There are also many who are supporting the appeal through word of mouth," said Buranelli.

There is some good news, however, to come out of the earthquake. In the village of Rocca di Cambio in Abruzzo, 25 kilometers from L'Aquila, a long-lost 11th Century fresco depicting the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus was found among the rubble, and is seen as a sign of hope. The Times Online reports:

"This is wonderful news at a time of so much destruction and sorrow," Antonio Pace, the mayor of Rocca di Cambio, told The Times. "The appearance of the Madonna and Child is a sign of hope. Nothing short of a miracle."

The fresco, in the church of San Pietro alla Collegiata at Rocca di Cambio - the highest of the Abruzzo mountain villages, at 1,500 metres above sea level - appeared when the earthquake which struck the region nearly two weeks ago shook the church, which lies at the top of the village, and the altar came away from wall.

"When we went in to check the damage we saw that the altar had moved, and behind the fallen plaster was the fresco," Mr Pace said. "There was tremendous excitement, as you can imagine."