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Restoration debate

World attention after the quakes was focused on damage to the 13th century Basilica of St Francis of Assisi. Priceless frescoes, thought to be by Giotto, were destroyed when part of the nave's internal vaulted ceiling collapsed during one of the aftershocks.

This collapse proved extremely controversial, with claims that 1960s restoration work had contributed to the high level of damage. Original roof timbers were replaced with reinforced concrete beams because of fear of fire, explained Allmark.

None of the experts was prepared to say to what extent this work had contributed to the destruction of the art treasures. A major meeting is taking place in Italy later this month to discuss latest findings. Allmark ventured: 'The effects of adding these beams appeared to have contributed to the behaviour, but it is not yet fully understood'.

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