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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 170291, 10 pages
Research Article

The Sacred Mountain of Varallo in Italy: Seismic Risk Assessment by Acoustic Emission and Structural Numerical Models

Department of Structural, Geotechnical and Building Engineering, Politecnico di Torino, 10129 Torino, Italy

Received 26 July 2013; Accepted 1 September 2013

Academic Editors: D. G. Aggelis, N. Alver, and H. K. Chai

Copyright © 2013 Alberto Carpinteri et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We examine an application of Acoustic Emission (AE) technique for a probabilistic analysis in time and space of earthquakes, in order to preserve the valuable Italian Renaissance Architectural Complex named “The Sacred Mountain of Varallo.” Among the forty-five chapels of the Renaissance Complex, the structure of the Chapel XVII is of particular concern due to its uncertain structural condition and due to the level of stress caused by the regional seismicity. Therefore, lifetime assessment, taking into account the evolution of damage phenomena, is necessary to preserve the reliability and safety of this masterpiece of cultural heritage. A continuous AE monitoring was performed to assess the structural behavior of the Chapel. During the monitoring period, a correlation between peaks of AE activity in the masonry of the “Sacred Mountain of Varallo” and regional seismicity was found. Although the two phenomena take place on very different scales, the AE in materials and the earthquakes in Earth’s crust, belong to the same class of invariance. In addition, an accurate finite element model, performed with DIANA finite element code, is presented to describe the dynamic behavior of Chapel XVII structure, confirming visual and instrumental inspections of regional seismic effects.