San Gemini Historic Preservation Studies

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The San Gemini Preservation Studies Program is a summer field school that organizes lectures, research, fieldwork, workshops and fieldtrips in the disciplines of historic preservation, restoration and conservation. It is located in Central Italy in the city of San Gemini and was started in 1999.

These programs focus on the study of historic building restoration and analysis, traditional methods of painting and restoration issues, conservation of archaeological ceramics, the craft of making and restoring book bindings and the restoration of books and works of art on paper. The field projects involve restoration of medieval churches, archaeological excavation in the ancient Roman city of Carsulae, and work on local archival material. In more recent years, programs on the restoration of archaeological ceramics, paper and book bindings have been added to the summer curriculum. The workshop for paper restoration handles material from the historic archives of the city of San Gemini and from the historic archives of the Diocese of the city of Narni. The workshop for archaeological ceramics handles original archaeological material from the excavation at the Public Baths of ancient Carsulae and other sites.

The program is a collaboration between scholars from various universities and local preservation groups, including the Historic Preservation Institute at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning to promote studies and research in the preservation of cultural heritage and fostering a multidisciplinary approach to historic preservation. It is now a part of the International Institute for Restoration and Preservation Studies (IIRPS). All academic activities are held in English.

The program sends out notices of program schedules to a listserv of interested parties.


The San Gemini Preservation Studies Program was started by Max Cardillo with Nikos Vakalis and Leda Violati of the Associazione per la Valorizzazione del Patrimonio Storico, San Gemini. The idea was to create a program that brought students from the United States to work in collaboration with this local preservation group and to create courses and to have field projects where students and faculty could work on sites the local associations were promoting.

Those first courses offered in 1999 were Survey of Historic Buildings and Introduction to Restoration. In Italy in the first years the program was directed jointly by Prof. Max Cardillo & Prof. Mathew Jarosz. In 2005 the program expanded to include a second session more oriented towards art historians and art restorers, including a class on Restoration Theory and a studio course in Traditional Painting Methods in Italy. In 2007 a third session was added, which is a new course on the History of Italian gardens and Urban Landscape. In 2010 a new program on paper restoration was added and in 2013 a new program on the restoration of book bindings was added.

The field work in the first few years, 1999-2001, was focused on the survey of the 12th-century church of San Giovanni Battista. From 2002 until 2004 work was carried out on the restoration of the North-West façade of that church. Part of the survey was done in collaboration with a team from the engineering school of the University of Perugia led by Professors Emanuela Speranzini and Marco Corradi. During this period a good working relation was established with the Soprintendenza per I Beni Culturali in Perugia and their local supervisor Dott. Margherita Romano. In 2004 a new field project was started to survey and restore the façade of the 14th Century Church of Santo Gemine. In 2005 Professor Jane Whitehead of Valdosta State University started a new archaeological excavation at the nearby ancient city of Carsulae in collaboration with the SGPS.

Research and Field Work Projects[edit]

Survey and Restoration of the Church of San Giovanni Battista

One of the oldest structures in San Gemini, the church is located at the northeast corner of the town. The church has a very attractive Romanesque façade on its west side built in 1199. Its history is as sketchy as the development of its very irregular plan.

The work started in 1999, focusing on the survey and documentation of the Romanesque façade of the church. Over time the scope expanded to cover the whole church, the adjacent Augustinian monastery, and various other structures that surround the church and the Piazzetta of San Giovanni Battista.

The goal of this project is to produce a comprehensive survey and documentation of the church, reconstruct its evolution over time, and produce a diagnostic study of the present condition of the church that will be used in its future restoration. Partial restoration work was started in 2003. The cleaning and consolidation of the 12th-century facade was completed in 2004.

Survey and Restoration of the Church of Santo Gemine, San Gemini

The so-called Duomo (or cathedral) of San Gemini is a church that was probably first built in the 13th century on top of an older structure (perhaps Roman). It has been transformed many times over its history; the last major renovation of the interior was in the 18th century, perhaps with some input by Canova. Work in 2005 included archaeological test pits outside the church and an architectonic survey of the church. The restoration of the façade commenced by working on the lower left section: removing a layer of plaster that covered the bell tower masonry and revealing the large Roman blocks. The stone was consolidated, cleaned and pointed. Exposing this medieval masonry was very exciting. The plaster was recent, probably done in the early 20th Century. This revelation has added one interesting historical layer to be deciphered in this building. This year the work of cleaning and pointing will continue on the right side of the façade.

Archaeological Excavation of the Public Baths, Carsulae, in Collaboration with Valdosta State University

In 2004, work began on the survey and architectural documentation of the public baths in the Roman city of Carsulae (2nd-century BCE to 2nd-century CE). Work continues on excavating and documenting the baths.

Visiting Lecturers[edit]

Paolo Renzi, Biblioteca Augusta, Perugia Jane Whitehead,Valdosta State University Marco Corradi, Università di Perugia, Facoltà di Ingegneria Margherita Romano, Soprintendenza BB AA SS Umbria, Perugia Bianca Fossà, Istituto Centrale per il Restauro, Rome Alessandro Bianchi, Istituto Centrale per il Restauro, Rome Marie Jose Mano, Istituto Centrale per il Restauro, Rome Francesco Bedeschi, Università di Roma, Facoltà di Architettura Rosalia Varoli Piazza, ICCROM, Rome Luciana Festa, Rome Giuseppe Morganti – Architect, MiBACT Marta Grimaccia, Restorer, Vatican Restoration Laboratories, Rome Marco Carpiceci, Architectural Heritage, Sapienza University of Rome Eugenie Knight, Istituto Centrale per il Restauro, Rome

Mark Gittins, restorer, CBC Cooperativa Beni Culturali, Rome

Antonio Rava, Free lance restorer, Turin Ilaria Rossi Doria, Free lance architect, Rome Will Shank, Free lance restorer, Barcelona, Spain Chiara Compostella, Free lance restorer, Rome Emanuela Ozino Caligaris, Restorer, Istituto Centrale per il Restauro, Rome Antonella Altieri, Biologist, Istituto Centrale per il Restauro, Rome


Facoltà di Ingegneria, Università di Perugia Valdosta State University Associazione per la Valorizzazione del Patrimonio Storico, San Gemini Parrocchia Santi Gemini e Giovanni Battista Comune di San Gemini Soprintendenza per i Beni Ambientali, Architettonici, Artistici, e Storici dell’Umbria Soprintendenza Archeologica dell’Umbria

Program Philosophy for Preservation[edit]

The purpose of preserving cultural heritage is to enhance awareness of who we are as humans, where we come from, and where we are going. The world is changing at an extraordinary speed and our heritage is under assault on many fronts: biological, environmental and cultural. The world’s diverse cultural heritage is being rapidly replaced by a homogeneous global industrial culture. As we deal with these changes, it is important that we retain cultural heritage and valuable diversity either as a clear memory or as a vital, living part of it.

Cultural objects are a material form of memory carrying evidence of all the complex historical and cultural forces that created them. Preserving and understanding such heritage requires a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach. All cultural events are the result of the infinite number of forces that generate them. The program attempts to study objects and cultural events from as many disciplines as are relevant.

The program’s efforts are directed at a singular territory, the hill town of San Gemini, in the central Italian region of Umbria. This approach to studying culture is to thoroughly explore one particular place or object and then to follow the threads that connect it to events in the larger world. Focusing on one place has allows students to better understand the cultural fabric that carries the objects we study. In this way two things are accomplished: first, generating knowledge and work that is useful to this particular town and second, learning about patterns of cultural interconnection, an important tool in preserving cultural heritage that can be applied anywhere in the world.

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