Seismic Behavior of the San Pietro di Coppito Church Bell Tower in L'Aquila, Italy

Gabriele Milani*, 1, Salvatore Russo2, Marco Pizzolato3, Antonio Tralli3
1 Dipartimento di Ingegneria Strutturale (DIS), Politecnico di Milano, Piazza Leonardo da Vinci 32, 20133 Milano, Italy
2 Universitá IUAV di Venezia, Venice, Dorsoduro 2206 ex-convento Terese 301223, Venice, Italy
3 Dipartimento di Ingegneria, Università di Ferrara, Via Saragat 1, 44100 Ferrara, Italy

© 2012 Milani et al;

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Dipartimento di Ingegneria Strutturale (DIS), Politecnico di Milano, Piazza Leonardo da Vinci 32, 20133 Milano, Italy; Tel: +39 022399 4225; Fax: +39 022399 4220; E-mail:


In the present paper, a non-linear numerical study on the 13th century masonry bell tower of the church of San Pietro di Coppito is described. The aim is to have an insight into the causes at the base of the partial collapse suffered by the structure during the L’Aquila earthquake in 2009. To this aim, two different numerical analyses have been performed namely non-linear static (pushover) and limit analysis. In both cases, the same full 3D detailed FE model of the structure is adopted, changing the seismic load direction and assuming different distributions of the equivalent static horizontal load. When dealing with the FEM incremental analysis, a commercial code is utilized assuming for masonry a smeared crack isotropic model. For limit analysis, a non-commercial full 3D code developed by the authors is utilized. It provides limit good estimates of limit loads and failure mechanisms, to compare with standard FEM results. From numerical re-sults, the role played by the actual geometry and by the masonry mechanical characteristics of the tower is envisaged, as well as a detailed comparison of failure mechanisms provided by the incremental FEM and limit analysis is provided. In all cases, the numerical analysis has given a valuable picture of damage mechanisms which can be compared with actual damage patterns so providing useful hints for the introduction of structural monitoring.

Keywords: Masonry tower, pushover, limit analysis, 3D finite elements.