Tourist killed by falling masonry in the Basilica of Santa Croce

The death of a Spanish tourist in the Basilica of Santa Croce asks questions about the state of ancient and fragile monuments of Italy. A 52-year-old tourist from Spain was killed by falling masonry in one of the most famous churches in Florence, the Basilica di Santa Croce.

The fatal accident in the church where Michelangelo was buried, Galileo Galilei and Niccolo Machiavelli raised questions about the condition of many ancient and fragile monuments of Italy.

Country culture minister Dario Franceschi, speaking from New York, said prosecutors would conduct an investigation to determine if faulty maintenance was guilty.

The victim was hit by a piece of decorative stone that fell from a height of 20 meters (66 feet) while visiting the church with his wife. According to reports by the Italian media, the fragment was about 15cm x 15cm (6 x 6in).

The 15th century basilica, which has a famous Neo-Gothic façade, has long been maintained in co-operation with the Italian Civil Protection Agency, Irena Sansesi, the head of the church-run organization for the Italian news agency Ansa.

“We are really surprised by what happened, and we wonder how it can happen,” she said.

Authorities check the stability of the church, which is expected to remain closed to indefinite visitors.

Other deadly incidents involving Italian monuments include the fall of the 14th century belfry in the northern city of Pavia, killing four people. The cause of the accident was never established.

A child and 30-year-old were seriously injured in July when plaster fell from the attic of the Acireale Cathedral in Sicily during the wedding.

In October 2012, the cornice fell from the wall of the royal palace of Casertanear Naples, causing a part of the roof to cave just a few meters from the tourists. No one was hurt.

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