An underground railway project in Rome could bring Michelangelo's iconic David tumbling down because of weak marble around its ankles.
• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
It has survived five centuries of war and earthquakes but Michelangelo’s David, on display in Florence’s Accademia Gallery, is now at risk from a multimillion-dollar underground railway project.
For all its poise and beauty, the iconic statue, which depicts the biblical boy warrior who killed the giant Goliath with a stone from his sling, is made of low-quality Carrara marble and has developed tiny cracks in its base.
Engineers now fear it could collapse due to vibrations from a high-speed rail project, due to start this summer, that involves excavating a four-mile-long train tunnel and a six-level underground train station beneath the cobbled streets of Florence.
“The tunnel will pass about 600 meters [2,000 feet] from the statue of David, the ankles of which, it is well known, are riddled with microfissures. If it’s not moved before digging begins, there is a serious risk that it will collapse,” says Fernando De Simone, an architect and an expert in underground engineering.
He called for the 17-foot statue, which Michelangelo completed in 1504, to be moved to a new, specially built museum.
The dispute reached all the way to parliament in Rome this month, with a senator asking for “immediate clarification” on the level of risk to the artwork. Cristina Acidini, a Florentine cultural official, said an assessment of the tunnel’s potential effect on David would be conducted by city engineers.