A retaining wall outside the entrance to the early Christian Basilica of S. Balbina Vergina on the Aventine hill has collapsed. The subsidence comes about three weeks after another three-metre stretch of the same wall collapsed. The rector of the basilica Alfredo Sipione blamed the roots of trees whose pressure has caused the wall to bulge in recent years. He stated that authorities were notified some years ago but that no action was taken.
While the basilica itself is thought to have been built in the fourth century, the ministry for cultural heritage said that the wall in question is no more than 100 years old, and insisted that the collapse would not cause any structural risk to the basilica.
The collapse follows high-profile similar cases last year in Pompeii and at the Colosseum, and comes at a time when the upkeep of Italy's heritage is under increasing international scrutiny. The country's national association of archaeologists has stated that the latest incident "confirms the need to invest resources in the maintenance and monitoring of our cultural heritage, which should be entrusted to the care of qualified technicians."
The church is dedicated to the second century Roman martyr Balbina and the first reference to the building is found in a sixth-century document. Over the centuries it has been rebuilt several times, with its present Romanesque look the result of restoration work carried out from 1927