It is known to be the worst one in Maltese history.
Over the years, Malta has been on the receiving end of some tremors in the Med, with some even going by almost unnoticed. In other, scarce circumstances, there have been episodes that caused damage. One such earthquake, and the one that is considered to be the worst one to date, was that of January 1693.
It seems that this earthquake was a result of an intense volcanic eruption from Mount Etna in Sicily. Slight shocks were experienced on the day of the eruption (9th January) but it wasn’t until two days later that the real damage was caused.
On Sunday 11th January at around 1.30pm, there was what was described as a loud crack resembling a thunderbolt and what sounded like “an ever-approaching cart,” according to an eye witness, Times of Malta reports.
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While in Sicily between 50,000 and 60,000 deaths were recorded, no lives were lost on our islands. But that didn’t stop people from fearing the worst, with the government and citizens turning to divine mercy and praying to every possible saint, particularly to St Paul.
It’s safe to say that the cultural buzz was at an all-time low and the Grand Master at the time, Adrien de Wignacourt cancelled all Carnival celebrations for that year, together with stopping all kinds of entertainment and even closing the law courts for a period of time.
While thankfully, no lives were lost, the Maltese Islands suffered a substantial amount of damage. The greatest one is considered to be the partial destruction of Mdina’s cathedral. The only parts that remained intact were the apse and Mattia Preti’s painting. Thankfully, plans (by the great Lorenzo Gafa) were already underway to refurbish the old cathedral, so things sped up from there.
The Knights were ordered to report damages incurred in Valletta which were considerable and the Cottonera region. Churches, houses and palaces were damaged, with most houses earmarked for demolition and partial parts of the larger buildings pulled down for fear of collapse.
We can only imagine what that was like…