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Baroque Cathedral in Sicily Reopens
18 June 2007

ROME (AP) - One of Sicily's most treasured Baroque cathedrals reopened Monday, more than 11 years after a large part of the church collapsed after being weakened by an earthquake and heavy rains.

In a $53 million restoration that began in 1999, experts used surviving parts to rebuild and strengthen the historic St. Nicholas Cathedral in the southeastern city of Noto. The frescoed dome and right section of the 18th-century cathedral collapsed in 1996 after being weakened by an earthquake nad heavy rains.

Noto's cathedral "is reborn," Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re said at a ceremony marking the church's reopening. "It was rebuilt exactly as it was before, using the same hand cut stone and a large part of the original material."

Some 83,000 workers pieced together the cathedral using traditional building techniques and stone taken from nearby quarries. They also strengthened the structure with carbon fibers to protect it from tremors in the quake-prone area, said officials in charge of the project.

In a message to the bishop of Noto, Pope Benedict XVI expressed gratitude to those who had worked on the "imposing and delicate" restoration, helping the cathedral "shine anew as a recognized jewel of historical value and of Baroque beauty typical of southeastern Sicily."

The cathedral is considered a gem of late Baroque architecture in Sicily, a style common to that corner of the island after much of the region was rebuilt after a devestating earthquake in 1693.
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