1693 Sicily earthquake | aftermath


The Cathedral of Noto, one of the many buildings constructed in Sicilian Baroque style after the earthquake


Sicily was at the time ruled as part of the Crown of Aragon by the Kings of Spain. The Viceroy in Madrid, the Duke of Uzeda, reacted by appointing Giuseppe Lanza, the Duke of Camastra, and the Prince of Aragon as Vicars General for the Val Demone and Val di Noto regions of Sicily respectively. Due to illness, both the Prince of Aragon and his replacement the bishop of Syracuse were unable to take up the position of Vicar General for Val di Noto and the Duke of Camastra was forced to take on the responsibility for both areas. Camastra already had considerable experience as an administrator, having served in a number of senior military and judicial positions. The Viceroy also appointed three generals as commissioners in order to organise the immediate relief efforts in the worst affected cities. One of the Duke of Camastra's first acts was to temporarily exempt the worst affected areas from taxes.[5] Amongst other administrators sent to the damaged area was Colonel Don Carlos de Grunenbergh, Royal Engineer to the King of Spain, who had experience in planning and building fortifications.[19]

In Palermo, the Viceroy formed two councils, a civil one made up of nobles, and another that was ecclesiastical, made up of senior church officials. They were directed to meet twice weekly,[19] and were charged with the drawing up of plans for the reconstruction of the worst affected towns and cities.[5]


The Maltese Baroque Cathedral of Mdina, built in 1696–1705 after the original cathedral was damaged in the earthquake

The initial reconstruction efforts concentrated on restoring the military defences of Syracuse, Augusta, Catania and Acireale, due to their strategic importance.[5] The reconstruction plans were of three types: move the town to a new site, rebuild at the same site with a completely new town plan or rebuild using the existing town plan. Examples of towns that fell in the first category were Avola and Noto, their former locations now being known as Avola Antica[20] and Noto Antica.[21] Catania is an example of a city that was rebuilt on the same site to a new plan, while adapting some of the existing structures. Syracuse is an example of a city rebuilt entirely to its existing plan.[5] Ragusa was partly rebuilt on its old site to the medieval plan (Ragusa Ibla) and partly on a new, but neighbouring site, to a 'modern' plan (Ragusa Superiore).[10]

The degree and extent of the damage caused by the earthquake prompted an architectural revival in the towns of Sicily and Malta, a style that has become known as Sicilian Baroque.[22] At this time many of the palazzi, public buildings, cathedrals and churches were reconstructed in this style. Towns that suffered serious damage from the earthquake in which many of their structures were rebuilt, include Syracuse, Ragusa, Catania,[23] Caltagirone, Palazzolo Acreide, Modica, Comiso, Scicli and Mdina on Malta. Many of these towns now form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (South-Eastern Sicily), inscribed in 1992, referring to the "exceptional quality" of the region's art and architecture.[10]

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