Historic tombs in peril at Livorno's old English cemetery

Fallen tree suspended over tomb sculpted by Giovanni Baratta, old English cemeteryFallen tree suspended over tomb sculpted by Giovanni Baratta, old English cemetery6th January 2014

Abnormally strong winds which hit Livorno at the beginning of December brought down two trees in the Old English Cemetery in Via Verdi, one of which continues to hang dangerously over several of the site's most valuable graves, including one dating from the early 18th century which was recently attributed to the Carrara-born sculptor Giovanni Baratta.

Earlier last year a study carried out by the Agriculture faculty of the University of Pisa revealed that several trees in the English cemetery are in urgent need of being pulled down. The tree in question is one of these. Moreover, other fallen trees in the cemetery during the past two years have caused major damage to several tombs, but this information has never been made known to the proper authorities.

One of the tombs in danger, sculpted in 1721 and attributed to Giovanni Baratta, old English cemetery of Livorno: Photo by http://livornodailyphoto.blogspot.itOne of the tombs in danger, sculpted in 1721 and attributed to Giovanni Baratta, old English cemetery of Livorno: Photo by http://livornodailyphoto.blogspot.itFor several years now the cemetery has been looked after by the five members of the no-profit association Livorno delle Nazioni and it was they who informed the Misericordia - the official body in charge of maintaining the graveyard - of the event and of the need to act urgently to protect the tombs. Although a team of gardeners was sent by the Misericordia to inspect the situation, no action was taken. Livorno delle Nazioni members themselves intervened by tying ropes around the fallen tree in the hope of temporarily preventing it from falling onto the graves, but it was clear that professional help was needed, both to remove the fallen tree trunk and to protect the marble tombs. However, despite further insistence and a registered letter, still no move was made by the Misericordia to deal with the situation. Or rather, the situation was dealt with by CHANGING THE LOCK on the cemetery gate so that members of the Livorno delle Nazioni group could no longer enter to monitor the state of the fallen tree and the surrounding tombs.

Left with little other choice, the Livorno delle Nazioni group, backed by many distinguished scholars and public figures, has now informed the Sovrintendenza (department of cultural heritage), and the British Consulate in Milan of the current situation, urging them to act promptly before further damage is caused to this precious historic site. The British Consulate has replied stating that it will be dealing with the problem, while a representative of the Sovrintendenza has been to inspect the site.

All those who treasure the historic site are waiting to see what will happen next, hoping that something will be done to protect the endangered graves before it is too late.

The story appeared today in the local press: Il Tirreno and Qui Livorno (although the photo shown in the latter is from the archives and does not reflect the current situation, and the Facebook group mentioned has been in existence for several years).

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