Venice floodwaters putting landmark church in peril

St Mark's Basilica
Priceless mosaics and marble have been put at risk by corrosive sea water as a result of severe flooding(Photo: Unsplash/St Mark’s Basilica)


“There is no time to waste” in saving the historic St Mark’s basilica in Venice from floodwaters and rising sea levels, says its head conservationist. 

Carlo Alberto Tesserin, who oversees the team responsible for the church’s management, says that a 2-metre flood wall is urgently needed to protect the 11th century church. 

The building is home to priceless mosaics and 125 types of rare marble, Tesserin said, all of which are put at risk each time the city floods.

This week, Venice was submerged by devastating floods, the worst to hit the city in half a century, leaving the ancient church swirling in sewage and dirty sea water. 

A sea barrier due to be launched in 2021 has been dogged by corruption and bureaucracy.  In the meantime, Tesserin is putting his hopes in a wall. 

“The weather is changing and there is no time to waste, we must save this place,” he said, according to The Times. 

“A wall is the way to save all this unless Venice’s flood barrier is completed and works.”

Pumps have been working overtime to drain water from the church’s flooded crypt and altar. In comments, to the AFP news agency, Tesserin said that the cost of repairing the damage stood in the millions. 

“We’re talking about millions of euros worth of damage,” he said.

“We said last year that the Basilica had aged 20 years in a high tide. It risks having aged much more than that in this one.” 

Water levels in Venice rose to 187cm above normal on Tuesday.  The Italian government has pledged €20 million towards the cost of repairs in the city, but Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro, who blames the floods on climate change, has issued an appeal to the international community to step in to help. 

“Venice is everyone’s heritage, unique in the world,” Mr Brugnaro said in his appeal. “Thanks to your help, Venice will shine again.”