The Italian Sacri Monti are heritage sites with some unique characteristics; they are a successful symbiosis between nature and art and are unconfined structures, therefore always being accessible but exposed to atmospheric agents, with many relevant consequences with regard to conservation problems. The paper discusses some aspects related to the application of non-destructive techniques (NDT) for the interpretation of degradation phenomena occurring in stone structural elements. Ultrasonic and impact tests were used to evaluate the structural properties of the stone columns in the Via Crucis portico, within the monumental complex of the Sacro Monte in Ghiffa (Piedmont, Italy), in order to determine their conditions of maintenance and to evaluate the portico static stability. Ultrasonic tests made it possible to obtain the value of the dynamic elastic modulus, which was variable at different points of the columns due to the diversified level of material damage. The impact test, performed with an instrumented hammer in the same points of the ultrasonic test, enables, by comparison, a deeper knowledge of the surface resistance of damaged columns. These results are the first step in a research path that will require further laboratory tests to better calibrate the diagnostic techniques applied to different levels of damage to surface materials.
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