American Students Help Preserve Italian Heritage

by Lara Barnes
July 23, 2014

Guest blogger: Lara Barnes is studying architecture at Cal Poly Pomona and is planning to graduate with a Bachelor of Architecture in June of 2015. She recently returned from studying abroad in Florence, Italy for nine months and had the opportunity to learn digital preservation in Florence with the support of CyArk.

Architecture is a true reflection of the people it serves. As the years go by, culture and humans change, but the architecture often remains. It acts as a window into the past, allowing us to be able to experience the most tangible piece of history there is; architecture. This incredibly valuable piece of history is constantly deteriorating and it is our responsibility to make sure this piece can be preserved to serve the generations to come as it has served us. As I stood on the mountain top of Penna at La Verna in Italy, I knew this to be true. It is difficult for an American student, like myself, to fully appreciate the value of historical architecture and the importance of preserving it. Studying in Italy for nine months definitely changed my perspective on the notion and the experience I had at La Verna, with the support of CyArk, gave me the education I needed to begin to help with this dream.

La Verna is a Catholic sanctuary located in the Tuscan Appennines atop Mount Penna in Italy. Santa Maria degli Angelli is a church in the sanctuary that was founded by Saint Francis in 1216. It was here that Saint Francis received the Stigmata, and after that it became a pilgrimage site for Franciscans and followers of Saint Francis. As it stands today, La Verna Sanctuary is engulfed in nature and has breathtaking views looking down on the valley of Casentino. The Sanctuary is used as a monastic complex with a monastery, church, museum and chapels.

CyArk supported a class of 30 American students in Italy, including myself, in learning the digital preservation trade. The weekly course included lectures every Thursday (taught in Italian) educating us on digital preservation and how the programs and scanners worked. We then took this knowledge we gained to La Verna and began to contribute to the conservation of the sanctuary. We spent 3 days at the sanctuary where we sketched and digitally scanned the church Santa Maria degli Angelli, which we were preserving. As a class we digitally drew floor plans, sections and elevations of the church as well as producing a digital 3D model, and 3D image scans with the help of the CyArk technology. I am very grateful to have been a part of the process in preserving this beautiful church.

Spending three days at the sanctuary was an incredible experience that I will never forget. The relationship between the surrounding nature and the architecture was in perfect harmony. The beauty of the sanctuary would be difficult to experience in any other way than it stands today, but if something happens to La Verna in the future, the information that has been collected through the means of the 3D scanner and drawings would allow our future generations to have the opportunity to witness the architecture and culture that once was there.
Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli at La Verna, Italy, with laser scanner out front
Students scanning outside the church
Group photo of American students that contributed to the digital preservation of the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli taken at La Verna, Italy