EC project "Review of Historical Seismicity in Europe" (RHISE) 1989-1993

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Viviana Castelli*
* GNDT/CNR at Osservatorio Geofisico Sperimentale, Viale Indipendenza 180,
62100 Macerata - Italy.

The Vatican Archives as a privileged observatory on
European earthquakes: some considerations

Part 1. The Vatican Archives

Part 2. Research and considerations

Part 1. The Vatican Archives

From the Middle Ages onwards the papal Court was a gathering point of information coming from the catholic countries. Part of this information flow was the output of an administrative/informative network that the Church itself spread over the catholic countries and/or the countries with which it entertained diplomatic relations: this network was formed by bishops and other ecclesiastics living outside Rome, by diplomatic representatives of the papacy abroad and in short by all people whose duty bounded them to inform the Holy See about what was going on in the countries which came under their observation. But the Church could also count on the output of another information network, formed by all the occasional "informers in spite of themselves" who wrote to Rome because they had something to ask for and, while doing so, also gave much indirect information about themselves, their countries and concerns.
Thanks to this complex interaction between Rome and the catholic countries, the papal Court in the heyday of its political power can be looked on as a privileged observatory on Europe (Partner, 1992): and this is the reason why the Vatican Archives, that is the central depository of Church records, has been chosen to be investigated in the frame of the CEC Project "Review of historical seismicity in Europe".
Could some information on earthquakes that affected European countries between the Middle Ages and the XVIII century have found its way to the Vatican Archives? What forms this information would take? Can the Vatican Archives fill gaps left unabridged by research on local sources?
The answer to these questions can be affirmative, as shown by previous seismological studies that exploited Vatican records. The results of these studies are both encouraging and interesting, as most of them concern the CEC Project selected time-window (Dufour, 1985; Ferrari et al., 1985a; Ferrari et al., 1985b; Guidoboni and Ferrari, 1986; Guidoboni and Margottini, 1988). Forays into the medieval Vatican sources seem more rare, but one can mention at least the Molin and Guidoboni (1989) study on Roman earthquakes, that quotes some papal letters connected with the 1349, Central Italy earthquake.
However it must be stressed that most of these studies are reviews of single earthquakes while the perspective of the investigation carried out in the frame of the CEC Project is wider, including both a survey of the informative potential of the Vatican Archives with regard to European transfrontier seismicity and the study of single earthquakes.
Accordingly, after a feasibility study the aim of which was to identify the curial departments likely to have collected evidence on Europe and the correspondingly useful archive holdings (Mandrelli, 1989), soundings were taken on various kinds of sources of interest for the CEC Project selected time-window; more comprehensive investigations were undertaken with regards to specific events, namely those of 1427-1428 in the Pyrenees and of 1564 in the Western Alps area. This note purposes to give a general outline of the work done in the Vatican Archives, together with a summary of research strategies and of remarks on analysed sources.

A historical outline
The papacy archive documents have been preserved with some regularity from 1198 onwards but their older sections did suffer great losses, partly due to historical hazards (such as wars, pillages and fires) and partly to the high mobility of medieval popes, who used to carry their papers with themselves - and sometimes to lose or leave them around Europe - and to the fact that a central Archives of the Church was only established at the beginning of the 17th century. Further losses were sustained between 1799 and 1817 when the papal archives were taken to Paris at the order of Napoleon.
In 1881 the Vatican Archives (whose official title is Archivio Segreto Vaticano, here contracted to ASVat) was opened to students: from that time the publication of ASVat source-material begins, promoted by foreign schools already existing in Rome or especially founded for the exploitation of the Archives in relation to the history of their own countries. Valuable as these enterprises are, there has been, unfortunately, little or no coordination between the various schools and single researchers, leading to the adoption of different standards and to duplication of work, besides some discontinuities in the quality of output.
The ASVat does not have a general inventory of all its holdings: moreover the order of each section (especially the medieval ones) is often difficult to understand if not actually bewildering. These shortcomings are partly the result of the way the ASVat was formed, i.e. by gathering holdings which had been rearranged over and over (often without too much discrimination) long before the ASVat was created and whose peculiar structures, being in themselves of historical interest, had to be preserved. But most of the blame must be placed on the medieval and Renaissance popes, each of whom introduced his own changes in operational procedures of the curial departments, unregarding of the resulting duplication of offices and overlapping of jurisdiction that are still reflected today by the confusion of records.

Fig. 1 - The main holdings of the Archivio Segreto Vaticano.
Records after 1876 are not consultable.

Planning a research in the Vatican Archives
Fig. 1 gives a general outline of the present ASVat holdings and their time-spans (internal gaps are not accounted for). Some of these unities are proper archive holdings, i.e. sets of papers related to the various activities of the curial departments or officials that put them together: this fact implies that, by studying the history and features of the producer body it is possible, to some extent, to forecast what kind of sources each holding should contain and to evaluate the more useful way to exploit them. On the contrary other 'holdings' are simply miscellaneous collections not related to any definite bureau: to exploit them means to undertake systematic researches which are apt to be both slow and costly.
To tell which of these holdings and 'holdings' are more likely to be preferential depositories of information coming from European countries is easier for modern times than for the Middle Ages. Indeed, given the very simple structure and lack of specialization of the papal medieval bureaucracy, almost anyone of the few existing holdings could supply useful data on European earthquakes. Roughly from the XVI century onwards the papal bureaucracy became more complex and some curial departments were especially appointed to manage relations between the papacy and foreign countries. The foremost is the Secretariate of State (Segreteria di Stato), whose archives hold most papers related to the activities of the nuncios or diplomatic representatives of the papacy. Another department whose holdings should be given priority is the Congregation of the Council, a commission of cardinals especially set up in the second half of XVI century to handle the relations between the Curia and the dioceses.
Each research is unique in itself and demands a fresh approach: consequently this paragraph does not mean to give a recipe on "how to search for data on earthquakes in the ASVat" but rather some considerations of a very general import on this theme and a brief relation of how one or two actual researches on given earthquake dates did go on in ASVat.
The interaction between study of an earthquake on location and study of the same earthquake in ASVat is vital for the latter's prospects of success. The researcher in ASVat must know about both the earthquake and the territory affected by it in order to decide what questions are more likely to be answered to by the Vatican papers and also in order to find its bearing among the ASVat holdings. The Vatican papers, of course, are mostly produced by ecclesiastics; they give space-time co-ordinates of an ecclesiastical nature (names of dioceses are the commonest landmark) and deal mostly with ecclesiastical or spiritual affairs (benefices, dispensations, curial appointments, indulgences and so on). It is up to the researcher in loco to point out aspects to analyse and problems to solve and also to provide information on the ecclesiastical structures in the affected area. Some preliminary bibliographic research work is also worthwhile, in order to check whether potentially useful source-materials have been already published and/or investigated by previous studies: in this case also the cooperation of researchers on location can be very important in order to identify such works, which can often be published in minor and/or not easily accessible periodicals.

Part 2. Research and considerations

The earthquakes of 1427-1428
The research on these earthquakes in the Vatican records was planned according to an evaluation of potentially useful materials (by the author of this note) and to the wishes expressed by the French an Spanish teams at work on location. Moreover data about dioceses, religious foundations and ecclesiastics active in the area affected by the studied earthquake have
been collected in order to define the field of investigation. Fig. 2 presents a sketch of the ecclesiastical and political structures of the Pyrenaic area around the beginning of XV century.

Fig. 2 - An historical outline of the area affected by the 1427-1428 earthquakes and some results of a research on Vatican records.

This rough map was actually used during the research on the 1427-1428 earthquakes as a memorandum on places which could be mentioned by Vatican records: it includes historical peculiarities such as the town of Maguelonne, which was important enough, in XV century, to be an episcopal see (accordingly Vatican records mention it often) but that would afterwards lose its standing and that does not exist any more today. Another research tool was the list of bishops presented in Tab. 1.

(Girona, Girunda)

Andrés Bertran
Juan de Casanova

1420 - 1431
1431 - 1436
Domingo Rom
Garcia Aznarez
1415 - 1434
1435 - 1449
Dalmatius de Mur
Gonzalo de Ixar
Domingo Rom
ante 1427 - 1431
1431 - 1433
1434 - 1445
Urgel (Urgellum) Francisco de Tovia 1416 - 1436
Vich (Ausona, Vicus) Jorge II de Ornos 1425 - 1445
Albi (Albi) Pierre III 1410 - 1433
(Augusta Asciorum)
Philippe de Lévis 1425 - 1454
(Divona Cadurc.)
Guillaume d'Arpajon 1404 - 1435
Godefroy de Pompadour 1420 - 1446
(Castrum Albiensium)
Pierre II de Cotigny
Gerard Mariet
? - 1427
1428 - 1434
1432 - 1444
Mirepoix (Mirapincum) Guillaume du Puy 1405 - 1433
(Narbo, Narbona)
François de Couzié 1391 - 1432
(Appamie, Pamiae)
Gérard de la Bricoigne
1424 - 1432
1432 - 1435
1435 - ?
Toulouse (Tolosa) Denis de Moulin 1423 - 1439

Tab. 1 - Around the Pyrenaic area, between 1427 and 1437: some dioceses and their bishops
(from Gams P.B., 1873-86).

The kinds of sources potentially useful to study a medieval earthquake in ASVat are not many, especially when the field of investigation has to be restricted to records most likely to hold information about European countries. There are the registers of supplications sent to the popes, the registers of the papal letters, the reports (Collectoriae) of officials charged with the exaction of monies due to the Church and some great miscellaneous collections, the perusal of which is made easier by the availability of chronological and systematical indexes. Though narrow in range, this set of sources corresponds to a considerable amount of papers. A register is no more than a chronological sequence of records coming from all over Europe - information on/from Toledo side by side with information on/from Prague or Paris - which has to be consulted thoroughly, with no certitude of finding the kind of data one is searching for.
Moreover it is not easy to establish when the flow of information concerning the effects of an earthquake could have stopped. With regards to the 1427-1428 earthquakes, an estimate of at least ten years as a likely period during which such news could have reached Rome seems not exaggerated. Data on damages caused to the cathedral of Narbonne by "some" earthquakes, which could be those of 1427-1428, did reach the pope as far as July 1436 (ASVat, 1436). So the researcher must take into account a broad time-slice of the available records. But how broad?
Fig. 3 summarizes the portion of registers of supplications and letters available for a period of about three years, nearer to the earthquakes' dates (1428-1431). The records collected over this period occupy some seventy registers of 200-300 leaves apiece so that to going through all this material could occupy one or two months of the work of a dedicated researcher. To obviate this problem it was decided to consult - at first - only a sample of the records which were partly between those concerning the 1429-1430 period, partly between those related to "intermediate" years (1433 and 1436) and finally to a rather "far" year (1447). The sounding aimed to find information concerning a set of dioceses (already presented in Tab. 1) whose territories should "encircle" the area presumably affected by the 1427-1428 earthquakes. It only concerned supplications and letters because no relation of tax collectors seems to be available for the period after 1415.

Fig. 3 - Registers of supplications and letters available for the years 1428 to 1431.

The consultation of the sample allowed the collection of data concerning French and Spanish localities situated in the area which could have been affected by the earthquakes (Fig. 2). The following are some examples taken from a Supplication register for 1433 (ASVat, 1433).
The bishop of Barcelona begs the pope to be permitted to make a pastoral visit of his diocese (c. 24r); a parish church in the Narbonne diocese is reported as "ruined" both for its ancientness "et multis aliis de causis" (ASVat, 1433, c. 49r), but what these other causes of decay could be it is not specified. A prelate lists the revenues of some Catalan churches, and among them there are also churches of the dioceses of Vich and Urgel (Fig. 2), but no mention of the earthquake effects is done (ASVat, 1433, cc. 33v); a canon of Gerona begs to be granted a benefice (ASVat, 1433, c. 24) .

What about earthquakes? Leaving out equivocal information such as that concerning buildings reported to be in bad conditions for unspecified causes, like the above mentioned Narbonne parish church or a "ruined" chapel located near the town-walls of Bordeaux (a city which, according to Lambert, 1989, is dubitatively linked with the 1427-1428 earthquakes), explicit quotations of the word "earthquake" are very few.
On October 1st, 1431, the pope Eugenio IV received a supplication on behalf of the church of Le Puy that "owing to the frequency of earthquakes is subjected to defacement and ruin" (Denifle, 1897). On March 14, 1432, the same pope was informed about the collapse of the church of "Sancta Maria de Grassa" (Lagrasse d'Aude, according to Lambert, 1989), an event which had been caused "by the earthquakes and other sinister events occurred from eight years onwards as well as by its excessive oldness" (Denifle, 1897). On July 7, 1436 Eugenio IV granted an indulgence to anyone willing to help with the repair of the cathedral of Narbonne, "recently" damaged by earthquakes (ASVat, 1436, c. 290r).

Are these earthquakes the Pyrenees events of 1427-1428? There are no clear statements about this point: the available chronological landmarks are to be found in the supplication concerning the church of "Sancta Maria de Grassa", which states that some earthquakes had occurred "from eight years onwards" and in the letter of Eugenio IV that, in 1436, terms as "recent" the earthquake which had damaged the cathedral of Narbonne.

The first statement could imply a back - dating of these particular earthquakes as far as 1424 - or even before, as March 14, 1432 is not the day on which the supplication was written/sent but merely the one on which it was accepted by the pope. The second statement, while untranslatable into any precise date, leaves some doubts: the term recent for an earthquake occurred eight years before seems a little exaggerated, even in the Middle Ages. Was the pope incorrectly informed about this detail? Or the inaccuracy was due to negligence for a detail that, after all, did not affect the substance of the document? Or, there were other earthquakes which could have affected Lagrasse d'Aude or Narbonne, before or after 1427-1428?
The investigation of the Vatican records, started from an informative base collected on location, send the researcher back to the starting point, with a new set of questions which will have to be answered to.

The earthquake of 1564
On recommendation by the French and Italian teams at work on the 1564, Maritime Alps earthquake, the research carried out on Vatican records has been aimed to investigate the output of the Vatican observatories on the affected area. Among the people that could qualify as Vatican observers there were the papal ambassadors (nuncios) to Savoy (Torino), France (Paris) and the Republic of Genova (Fig. 4a), the papal officers and subjects living in the

Fig. 4 - Vatican observatories on the area affected by the 1564 earthquake.

Legation of Avignon, a Papal enclave in French territory (Fig. 4a), and the bishops of the dioceses closest to the affected area, such as Nice, Vence, Grasse and perhaps Ventimiglia (Fig. 4b). But useful data could also have reached ASVat through other channels, by letters written to the Secretariate of State by rulers and private persons and through the newsletters or "Avvisi" that were sometimes sent to the Secretary of State by his foreign correspondents.
As a first step, the availability of records written by the aforesaid observers in 1564, and/or in a period of roughly five to ten years after 1564, has been checked. This procedure has restricted the field of investigation because, for instance, the Segreteria di Stato files of general correspondence, such as Lettere di Vescovi don't include any letter from bishops of Ventimiglia before 1615, nor from the bishops of Nice and Grasse before 1655. Also the oldest volume of Lettere di Particolari, covering with many gaps the period between 1519 and 1602, does not include any letter coming from the area affected by the 1564 earthquake and/or dated in 1564 and near years.
Records of papal ambassadors have been checked, when available, for a period of more or less ten years after 1564. The ASVat inventories record a good number of files formed by letters and miscellaneous papers belonging to the Nunziatura di Francia holdings that, according to their global time-coverage could include papers written in the years around 1564. But inventories don't account for internal gaps in the time-coverage of single files, and the research has showed that in many cases no XVI century documents are included in them. In a lot of cases documents dated 1564 but bearing no relation to the earthquake have been found.

The records nearest to the 1560's-1570's in the Nunziatura di Genova holding are collected in a file of Lettere originali di diversi al papa e alla Segreteria di Stato (ASVat, 1572-1574) covering the period 1572-1574 and in a file of Carte diverse (ASVat, 1463-1797), covering the period from 1463 to 1797). The first file has not been taken into account and the second one does not contain any XVI century document.
The Savoy nunciature correspondence for the years 1560-1573 has been recently published (Fonzi, 1960), but unfortunately only a few letters written in the period between 1564 and 1568 have been preserved. The writers seem chiefly concerned about the fight against Reformation, which had gained some ground in the Duchy of Savoy and had supporters at the ducal court. Accordingly, the pope did take various countermeasures to ensure that the duke himself would take the catholic side, going to the length of authorizing him to levy a tax on ecclesiastics (that were ordinarily exempt from tribute to lay authorities) in order to raise funds for military expenses. No references to the earthquake of 1564 have been found in the Savoy nunciature letters: the earliest references to the Nice area appear in letters dated between November 1569 and February 1570, when the Nissarts, during a period of famine, held-up some boats carrying grain belonging to the pope.
The Legazione di Avignone holding of the Segreteria di Stato is formed by letters, memoranda and petitions sent to Rome by bishops, lay officials and private citizens from Avignon, Cavaillon and Carpentras. In the years 1560-1580 the main subject of interest for most of these papers seem to be the religious wars: the repeated mentions of churches and military buildings in a state of disrepair, which have been found in these records, are clearly due to the war (ASVat, 1564-1572; 1233-1692).
A sort of ultima ratio for the researcher (to be resorted to when a more systematic and pondered consultation of ASVat holdings has borne no fruit) is the XVIII century Garampi index. The index, based on a extensive perusal of ASVat holdings, was prepared by cardinal Garampi as a preliminary step to the compilation of a general history of the Church. This work was never completed, but the index was, and it is still used by researchers as a shortcut to some of the older ASVat holdings though, given its venerable age and size, the indications it can give are always of a general kind, often difficult to trace and sometimes simply wrong.
However, the Garampi index lists some documents, dated between 1565 and 1567 and concerning some parish churches of the diocese of Nice ("parrochialis S. Salvatori de Rora", "parrochialis S. Dalmatii de Plano", "parrochialis S. Petri de Scarena") which might fall within the near-field area of the 1564 earthquake. That these documents are still in existence today, and that they are maybe related to the earthquake, is still to be checked.
As far as it is known, it would seems that no Vatican correspondent has written to Rome about the 1564 earthquake, but the comparison among investigated records points out some research options. Both the extraordinary tax on ecclesiastics, that the pope authorized in order to subsidize the duke of Savoy, and a pastoral visit of the diocese of Nice, whose performance the pope permitted in the 1590's, might have fostered the collection of data on the effects of the 1564 earthquake: surveys of the damages to Church buildings, carried out during the pastoral visit, or data about damage suffered, which could be given by parsons or other ecclesiastics in order to excuse themselves from the payment of the extraordinary tax. In any case the existence of such testimonials is to be checked in the archives of the affected area.

Nuncios and earthquakes
The distribution of apostolic nunciatures in Europe from the XVI century onwards is presented in Fig. 5. The nunciature papers of the ASVat fall into two categories:
a) under the heading Nunziature e Legazioni there is the source-material produced and collected by the Secretariate of State in its relations with nunciatures;

Fig. 5 - Vatican observatories on Europe from XVI century onwards.

b) under the heading Archivi delle Nunziature there is part of the source-material locally produced by each nunciature. On leaving office nuncios were expected to hand over to the ASVat the papers concerning it but many of them did not, and this resulted in the loss of many records or in their scattering into more than one Italian family archive. Tab. 2 summarizes the papers of both classes today available in the ASVat, and their time-span.

Nuncios were expected to report to the Secretary of State at least once a week: but what did they write about? Could some information on earthquakes affecting the nunciature area have found its way in nuncios' reports? In order to understand what kind and amount of information a nunciature could have produced in the occurrence of an earthquake, the Portogallo series of the Nunziature and Legazioni holdings has been investigated with regard to the 1755 "Lisboa" earthquake.
Fig. 6 summarizes some results of this sounding. The Segreteria di Stato collected a miscellany of records on the "Lisboa" earthquake: newsletters and anonymous reports, copies of letters sent to the king of Portugal, a personal letter of the nuncio. The nuncio's official correspondence speaks about it, too, mostly by references to the trouble the nuncio was having in compelling nuns of damaged or destroyed monasteries to keep their vows of seclusion: the letters sent from January 1756 onwards only mention, in a rather off-hand way, the "unfortunate circumstances" (ASVat, 1755-1756a).
The earthquake of November 1, 1755 upsets the routine of the Lisboa nunciature (among other things the secretary and other members of the staff were killed), and it is maybe unfair to expect too much by this particular nuncio: however the "earthquake reaction" of the Lisboa nunciature can only indicate the maximum possible level of involvement, to be confronted with a less extreme situation such as that of the nuncio "to the Swiss" after the Central Alps (Valais) earthquake of December 1755.

Class a) papers
Class b) papers




Nunziature diverse
  (Monaco di Bav.)  

Tab. 2 - Time-span of nunciature papers in the ASVat (from Boyle , 1972).

Fig. 6 - Some results of the investigation on the 1755 ,"Lisboa" earthquake in the
Segreteria di Stato holdings of ASVat.

The letters written by the nuncio (in Luzern) to the Secretary of State in the 1755-1756 winter don't speak about the earthquake at all, but rather about bad weather (heavy snowfalls, floods, overflowing of Luzern lake) that hindered the regular correspondence with Rome (ASVat, 1755-1756b).
This could mean that the nuncio did not know about the earthquake, which occurred in a far and sparsely populated area (but it is hard to believe this of a diplomat living in an epoch of highly efficient communications such as the XVIII century could be). On the other hand the nuncio can simply have sent to Rome a selection of the available news, discarding items not strictly linked with the pope's current political concerns.
It must not be forgotten, in fact, that - nuncios being ambassadors of the pope - theirs letters concern chiefly the main subjects of the pope's current politics, while the sending of further, miscellaneous news, is something left to each nuncio's discretion: some of them enriched their reports by enclosing gazettes and like materials. While it would not be advisable to exclude that a nuncio could have written about some earthquakes, it seems that the probabilities would be higher if the event would have had some connection with more pressing political concerns of the papacy.

"Avvisi" and earthquakes
The series Avvisi, Memoriali, Biglietti of the Segreteria di Stato holdings include 150 volumes of "Avvisi" (newsletters and gazettes) which got to the ASVat as enclosures to some of the nuncios' weekly reports to Rome.
The Avvisi, that appear around the half of XVI century, are thought to be the first form of modern journalism (Castronovo, 1980): an Avviso is a handwritten, four or eight leaves long, list of miscellaneous news (wars and politics, trade, gossip and causes célébres, natural events) compiled by someone who drew on various sources of information such as personal letters, confidential reports, rumours and so on. The drafting of Avvisi was carried on in many European countries as shown in Fig. 5. The time-spans of some ASVat Avvisi are given in Tab. 3.
The fact that Avvisi were written in a given locality does not exclude that the same Avvisi could also give news on other areas: the Avvisi di Vienna, for instance, list items concerning the German and Balcanic areas but also France and Italy, while the Costantinople Avvisi are a collection of data coming from the whole Mediterranean basin.
Data about the time-spans are also to be taken with caution, owing to the inaccuracy of ASVat inventories and to the erratic periodicity of the newsletters, which can result in great gaps between issues. For instance, of three volumes seemingly exploitable for the study of the 1564, Western Alps, earthquake, only the Avvisi di Vienna of 1563-1565 did actually contain issues on 1564. On the contrary, the Avvisi di Francia of 1562-1593 turned out to cover mostly the years 1589-1590, with only a single issue dated 1562, and



Tab. 3 - Time-span of some ASVat 'Avvisi' (ASVat, Indici, 1020).

finally the Antwerp (Fiandra) newsletters of 1559-1599 only covered the years 1559 and 1599. Barring these problems, however, the Avvisi often give news about earthquakes: Fig. 7 synthesizes the results of a sounding on the 1690, Eastern Alps, earthquake. The Avvisi speak about this earthquake being felt in Venice, Graz and Wien, but also about other earthquakes, such as the ones occurred in the Western Indies (Nives Island, April 1690) and in Central Italy (Foligno, September 1690), the latter being an event unrecorded by the Italian seismic catalogue (Postpischl, 1985).
In conclusion the Avvisi are an interesting source - especially when substantial collections and not single issues are available - that should be systematically indexed, as research on single dates risks to be less rewarding and more costly at the same time. Rome could be a good place where to start a systematic inventory of Avvisi, which are available in plenty not only in the already mentioned series of Avvisi, Memoriali, Biglietti, but also in other ASVat holdings (Archivio Borghese, Miscellanea) and in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.

Bishop's reports and earthquakes
The Council of Trento, which ended in 1563, introduced many innovations in ecclesiastical life: from then on, among other things, bishops were required every third year to write a report on the general state of their dioceses. These reports were then sent to Rome where the Congregation of the Council collected them in its archives (now a part of ASVat).

Fig. 7 - Some results of the investigation on the 1690,"Villach" earthquake
in the Vatican 'Avvisi'.

Inventories of bishops' reports conserved by the Congregation of the Council arrange them in alphabetical order according to the latin names of dioceses, but they don't indicate what time-span is covered by each dossier: in many cases the contents of single dossiers turn out to be useless as source-material on a given earthquake because they begin much later than the earthquake date or because of serious gaps between one report and the next one.
A bishop's triennial report gives information on a standard set of topics: diocese's boundaries, number of its inhabitants, economic conditions of the local Church, clergy (its composition, training and morals), people (their orthodoxy, keeping of the precepts of the Church and morals), jurisdictional and administrative problems of the diocese. The quality of the information is very variable: some reports - probably drafted after a pastoral visit of the diocese, during which the bishop personally took stock of the conditions of Church property - are very detailed, while others are so synthetic and unoriginal to seem little more than updated copies of previous reports.
Bishops' report can give information about earthquakes, as proved by the excellent study of Guidoboni and Margottini (1988) on the Dalmatian earthquake of 1667. This study lists eleven reports written by Kotor bishops between 1669 and 1746, where many references to the earthquake can be found, beginning with detailed descriptions of damages to Church property (in earlier reports) and ending with repeated hints about the money problems connected with the earthquake damages (in later reports).
To study an earthquake in the bishops' reports it would be advisable to check contemporary reports from as many dioceses of the affected area as possible: unfortunately that is very difficult to do owing to the above mentioned chronological problems, as the case of the 1690, Eastern Alps, earthquake can show. The dossiers of some dioceses, such as Udine and Salzburg, begin too late to be of any use. Reports coming from other dioceses speak vaguely about "problems" which could or could not be connected with the after-effects of a seismic event: for instance, a letter by the bishop of Gurk, dated 1713 March 22, stating that "the revenues of my churches are scanty enough owing to the fire that the city suffered and also to other calamities (...)". Finally no mention of the earthquake was found in a report sent from the diocese of Aquileia in 1694, though it did contain references to localities such as Villach, which are known to have been affected by the earthquake.

This note is partly based on a research performed by Flavia Marcella Mandrelli and on following discussions with her.
The author would also like to thank Massimiliano Stucchi for some stimulating contributions to the shaping of this work.

ASVat (Archivio Segreto Vaticano), XVIII. Indice cronologico Garampi, sub voce 1564.
ASVat, 1233-1692. Segreteria di Stato, Legaz. di Avignone, Atti e memorie, 372.
ASVat, 1433. Suppliche, 278.
ASVat, 1436. Registri Lateranensi, 345.
ASVat, 1463-1797. Segreteria di Stato, Genova, Carte diverse, 21.
ASVat, 1552-1721a. Segreteria di Stato, Venezia, Carte diverse riguardanti Aquileia, 390.
ASVat, 1552-1721b. Segreteria di Stato, Venezia, Carte diverse riguardanti Aquileia, 391.
ASVat, 1562-1791. Indici, Avvisi, memoriali, biglietti, 1027.
ASVat, 1563-1565. Segreteria di Stato, Avvisi, memoriali, Biglietti, Avvisi di Vienna, 126.
ASVat, 1564-1572. Segreteria di Stato, Legaz. di Avignone, Lettere al card. Morone e altri, 1.
ASVat, 1572-1574. Segreteria di Stato, Genova, Lettere originali di diversi al papa e alla Segreteria di Stato, 1.
ASVat, 1615-1745. Segreteria di Stato, Vienna, Cancelleria e Segreteria, Miscellanea de nuntiis apostolicis.
ASVat, 1624-1784. Segreteria di Stato, Vienna, Cancelleria e Segreteria, Miscellanea locorum et personarum, 127.
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