January 1693 Leveled Everything

I can’t emphasis enough how significant the infamous earthquakes of 1693 were to eastern Sicily. First of all, it wasn’t just one day or one event. “The earthquake” was a series of tremors that started on January 9, 1693 with a hypothetical 6.2 magnitude (there was no Richter Scale at the time) followed by a hypothetical 7.4 quake at 9PM on January 11, 1693. Etna erupted. A tsunami struck the Ionian coast of eastern Sicily from the Strait of Messina to Portopalo di Capo Passero. There were aftershocks for more than a year and a half later with an estimated 60,000 deaths. The entirety of eastern Sicily experienced destruction with most of the damage in the Val di Noto. Catania, Ragusa, Siracusa, Noto, Modica, Palazzolo Acreide, Scicli (pictured here), Caltagirone, Augusta, and many, many other towns would never be the same. What grew out of the tragedy was a now-recognized-by-UNESCO architectural style unique to Sicily, the late Sicilian Baroque of the Val di Noto, but not only. It also created an economic interruption that leveled the class structure, leading to the rise a of powerful middle class not seen before in Sicily.

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