The Sannio earthquake of 5 June 1688.

Il earthquake of the Sannio of 5 June 1688, around 20 pm, with a devastating earthquake of magnitude 7,10 it hit southern Italy hard, causing destruction and very serious damage on the Molise and Campania Apennines that stretch from the Matese Mountains to Benevento and Irpinia. The main shock was felt in at least 5 of the current Italian regions: Campania, Molise, Abruzzo, Lazio, Basilicata and Puglia, over an area of ​​over 80.000 sq km.

Historical chronicles tell of the Sannio earthquake.

The chronicles of the time tell us that theepicenter of the Sannio earthquake was identified near Cerreto Sannita, the village was completely destroyed and 4.000 people died (half of the inhabitants). The victims in Benevento were 2.115. In Guardia Sanframondi the dead were 1.200, in San Lorenzello 600 out of 1.000.

Disaster in Benevento caused by the 1688 earthquake.

A testimony of what happened is given Pompeo Sarnelli, at the time Abbot of the college of Santo Spirito in Benevento and eyewitness of the event:

“It was the fifth day of June, Saturday the eve of the SS. Pentecost, sixth of our distinguished College of S. Spirito in the Church of S. Maria of Constantinople, when I, Abbot of the same, prepared me to go there to celebrate the solemnity of the first Vespers. And, being already now, he thought of sending me to there […]. And behold, it strikes 20. hore, I felt a great shake in the room. [...] and in an instant (it was twenty hours and a half) without noticing another shock, I saw the attic and the roof of the room fall upon me. [...] so that the shock ceased, I was all battered and bruised under the ruins of the attic, of the roof, and of the wall near me ... ".Vincenzo Magnati in one of his works says:

"Head of the County (Cerreto), in which there were a little less than 8.000 inhabitants, half of them ceased to be buried in that massacre, and on that same day of June 5, when they felt and felt the first earthquake of the Earth, they almost took it as a joke and a joke, in the second we thought it should stop and in the third we shouted: it is not already a joke, and in fleeing they were all oppressed by the stones and buried by them, thus finding death and burial having fallen all without knowing a vestige of it , observing only a large, poorly composed pile of stones, stones, mortar, beams and other materials, demonstrating that there were buildings and factories in it ”.

The Sannio earthquake causes serious damage also in Naples.

The Sannio earthquake also caused serious damage to Naples, about 50 km from the epicentral area. Most of the buildings in the city suffered more or less serious injuries and collapses were widespread. After the shock, the city streets appeared littered with rubble and debris.
The news of the earthquake published was also published in the “Bologna” gazette of June 29, 1688, more than three weeks after the event. At the time the news, in fact, also took many days or weeks to reach other cities.

Sannio earthquake in a newspaper of the time.

The natural damage caused by the Sannio earthquake.

The natural damage caused by the Sannio earthquake on the natural environment was significant. Both the soils and the waters were affected: large cracks opened in the Sannio mountains, accompanied in some cases by the escape of gas, new springs were born, others already existing were lost. A huge landslide hit the village of San Lorenzello and killed hundreds of people out of a thousand inhabitants. The Sabato and Volturno rivers underwent deviations and clouding. The analysis of the sources made it possible to reconstruct the devastating impact of the earthquake on the social fabric and economy of the vast affected area. The population abandoned the destroyed settlements and lived for a long time in shacks and makeshift lodgings, often in conditions of great precariousness. Entire infrastructures - including mills, ovens and oil mills - were destroyed, creating enormous inconvenience even in food supplies.
That of the Sannio, by extension of the affected area, severity of the effects and number of victims, is one of the most significant seismic disasters in Italian history.

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