Sessa Aurunca (Caserta, Italy) is home to a Cathedral built between 1103 and 1113, dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul. Construction was begun by the Benedictine monk Giacomo, who had participated in the reconstruction of the monastery at Montecassino a few decades before. Father Giacomo, who had been sent to direct the diocese of Sessa Aurunca by Abbot Desiderius after the latter became Pope Victor III, proposed using the main Montecassino abbey church as the architectural model for the new Cathedral.
The Sessa Aurunca Cathedral is therefore a building of superb beauty dating back almost one thousand years, with an absolutely unique feature: it is “the other original”, an almost exact copy of the church at Montecassino which, as is well known, was destroyed by bombing during World War II and subsequently rebuilt. The two buildings differ only in the number of naves: Montecassino has five, while Sessa Aurunca has three. The Sessa Aurunca Cathedral is one of the infinite “pearls” of Italian artistic heritage. Indeed, it stands out for its beauty and historical significance: despite the changes made over the centuries (Baroque and eighteenth-century additions), the cathedral still bears direct witness to the typical religious architecture of the period, combining structural rigour, Christian symbolism and a number of refined Byzantine-style elements (such as the splendid mosaic floor).
Despite its obvious significance, the Sessa Aurunca Cathedral is not well-known among the general public and is overlooked by “traditional” tourist flows. For this reason, the diocese and the municipality of Sessa Aurunca in the Campania region of Italy decided to launch the “Sessa Aurunca 3D Project”, a communications project designed to promote the Cathedral and provide the associated services and products.
As Scientific Researcher and Architect Danilo Prosperi explained, this project was assigned to the “Research Centre for Innovative Digital Survey, Analysis and Representation Technologies for Architecture and Sacred Art” at the European University of Rome: “This activity was part of the second-level Master’s in Architecture, Sacred Art and Liturgy at the European University of Rome. The work we have already completed and that remaining to be done is broad in scope and will bring the artistic and historical significance of this Cathedral to the attention of an international audience.”
The “Sessa Aurunca 3D Project” has several goals and is broken down into seven specific points that will explore new frontiers within the world of communications: the publication of academic and scientific reports and articles; the organisation of conventions, seminars and events; the production of stereoscopic 3D animations and videos, with the creation of a You- Tube channel and dedicated videos; the creation of a “360-degree Virtual Tour” with a database and “multidata” to “explore” the Cathedral using computers and mobile devices; the creation of thematic apps and a website; and the production of a “docu-film” about the project and the technologies used. Regarding this last aspect, Danilo Prosperi observed: “Part of the success of this initiative can be attributed to the FARO Focus3D Laser Scanner, an extremely precise device that we used to scan the Cathedral’s architecture, which provided us with a point cloud or, more precisely, digital data that we were able to use in our various activities.” The data acquisition phase involved 38 scans made inside and outside the church, including the crypt, and took just over half a day. “The quality of the FARO Focus3D Laser Scanner enabled us to acquire extremely high-resolution and high-precision images with very low margins of error, which was fundamental for the scanning of extremely beautiful details, such as the mosaic floor, the ambo, the spiral Paschal candelabrum and the crypt on the lower level.”
The data gathered were then processed in SCENE, the FARO software for the management of scanned data, designed specifically for the Focus3D. This software was used to create and edit videos and images for the 3D Virtual Tours of the Cathedral. “SCENE,” Danilo Prosperi specified, “allows us to easily process the scanned data and quickly generate particularly complex high-resolution equirectangular panoramic images”. Danilo Prosperi stressed: “We believe that the FARO Focus3D Laser Scanner is the best technology on the market, not only due to its extreme precision, but also because it is so flexible, fast and easy to use. In fact, it is a compact instrument that is very lightweight and easy to move from one scanning position to another.” He concluded: “The collaboration between FARO and the Master’s in Architecture, Sacred Art and Liturgy at the European University of Rome has only just begun. Given the quality of the results, we plan to use the FARO Focus3D Laser Scanner in the future for other projects aimed at promoting highly important monumental sites of great beauty.”