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The Most Disastrous Earthquake in Dubrovnik’s History

The calamity that changed Dubrovnik’s urban planning

365 years ago Dubrovnik faced one of the greatest challenges in its history. The earthquake struck the city on April 6th, 1667. It was one of the most disastrous earthquakes to hit what is now modern Croatia. It was just before Easter on the Holy Wednesday. According to archival notes, we today know that the earthquake occurred between 8 and 9 am. This disastrous earthquake was felt from the Gulf of Genoa to Istanbul.

The Turning Point in Dubrovnik’s History

The turning point in Dubrovnik’s history was an earthquake in 1667. A strong shake was short-lived, yet Dubrovnik began to crumble in the early morning. In just a few seconds palaces, churches, and monasteries formed a ruble. Huge rocks rolled downhill from Mt. Srđ. The water supply was interrupted; the wells dried. Soon Dubrovnik was swept by a tidal wave. As the sea retreated, the ships anchored in the harbor were left with broken keels, torn against the rocks. Fires followed and ravaged the city for 20 days. Novena, a digital studio in Zagreb published a graphic 3D insight of the earthquake that shook Dubrovnik in 1667.

Dubrovnik A Team Tours- Dubrovnik Earthquake- Post image

In 1667. the sun turned grey

Dubrovnik Cathedral was severely damaged. Rector’s Palace had to go through extensive repairs. The only Renaissance palace that remained intact along the main Placa street was the state mint in Sponza Palace. More than half of the population perished during the earthquake. The survivors took refuge in the Revelin fortress and the Lazaretto, as those were not damaged. Over 3000 people lost their lives during this disastrous calamity. Fully aware of this disaster, the Dubrovnik government gave priority to reconstruction. The prompt restoration was a prerequisite to survival.

The first devastating earthquake happened in 1520. Immediately after it happened, the people of Dubrovnik built the votive church of St. Savior. They built the church out of fear of God’s wrath and gratitude that the town had been spared from destruction. 

So why do earthquakes happen in this part of Croatia? Scientists agree that it has to do with the fact that the Dinarides (a mountain chain) is an active fold-and-thrust belt that extends from western Slovenia to Montenegro. The number and strength of earthquakes are growing from northwest to southeast. The strongest earthquakes occur in the southeastern area from Dubrovnik to Albania. If you think this is a valuable subject and want to find out more, join the A – Team’s Medieval Times Tour that will take you into the old quarter where it is still possible to notice areas affected by this disastrous earthquake.


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