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

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Jérôme Lambert*, Andrea Moroni **
and Massimiliano Stucchi **
* Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières, Service Géologique National, B.P. 6009,
45060 Orléans-La-Source Cedex 2, France.

** Istituto di Ricerca sul Rischio Sismico, CNR, via Ampère 56, 20131 Milano, Italy.

An intensity distribution
for the 1564, Maritime Alps earthquake

The 1564, Maritime Alps earthquake was investigated in the frame of the RHISE project: Moroni and Stucchi (1993) reconsidered the classical sources of the earthquake and investigated unpublished sources for Piemonte; Lambert (1993) investigated the Nice area and the Provence, while Rivara and Vaccari (1993) investigated the Ligurian area.
The picture of the earthquake is not very clear, yet (Tab. 1). Some sources, apparently independent, confirm that an earthquake happened on 1564, July 20; it damaged some towns of the Vesubie valley, was felt in Piemonte, probably at Borgo S. Dalmazzo (Grasso Dalmazzo, 1570) and could be felt as far as Aix-en-Provence (Sobolis, 1562-1607).
However, chronological problems are not completely solved. In particular, de Salicis (XVI) reports damage occurred on May 5 only at S. Jacques (La Bolline), not reported explicitely by other sources, and La Roche, also reported by Mogiol (1564). The wording used by de Salicis suggests the possibility that a big landslide occurred in May 1564 in the Valdeblore area, without relation to earthquakes.
According to most sources, the July 20 earthquake certainly produced landslides, which probably took place during a number of days or weeks, as it is normal in general and especially for this area (Perriaux, 1927). Therefore, it might be that reporters, such as Mogiol (1564), amalgamated descriptions related to various natural events as the result of a single ìterremotoî.
The same explanation may also apply for Lubonis (1565?), who writes almost one year after the earthquake and might amalgamate earthquake reports from the Vesubie valley with reports from the Roya valley, where damage reported at La Piene and Ventimiglia is not confirmed by archive investigation (Rivara and Vaccari, 1993). On the contrary, the result of this investigation suggests that Ventimiglia was flooded before the earthquake (Spring 1564) and La Piene after (Autumn 1564).

Tab. 1 - The effects of the earthquake according to the main sources of information.

Following these points, damage reported from S. Jacques, La Roche, La Piene and Ventimiglia will not be considered here as produced by the earthquake; for these localities intensity will not be assessed.
Finally, some localities reported by Mogiol (1564), Sandalingi, Villaret, Rocca Marina, have not yet been identified: the same holds for Mage (Nostradamus, 1616). On the contrary, St. Martin Vesubie, close to the most damaged area and today main town of it, is not mentioned by any source.

Main sources
As described in the papers above mentioned, the set of sources which can be used for intensity assessment is still rather poor. Tab. 1 summarizes the main sources selected for intensity assessment and the localities for which they supply records. Texts are given in the Appendix.

Lubonis (1565?) seems the most reliable source, once that problems related to Ventimiglia and La Piene are solved.
Mogiol (1564) map and letter were discussed by Moroni and Stucchi (1993): beside the identification of some localities, the earthquake records supplied are very poor and difficult to be used for assessing intensity. However, Rimplas is quoted only by this source.
Grasso Dalmazzo (1570) only refers that the earthquake was felt in Piemonte; the attribution of this record to Borgo S. Dalmazzo is due to the fact that his work mainly deals with this locality and the nearby Cuneo. The same apply to Sobolis (1562-1607), whose records may mean that the earthquake was felt in Provence and not necessarily in Aix-en-Provence.
Nostradamus (1616) provides the only known record mentioning Mage, La Brigue and Nice; his accounts for the other towns generally amplify Lubonis' (1565?) report. Blancardi (XVII) provides the only known record concerning Clans. Laurenti (XVII) reports, through Gioffredo (1692), sea-waves in Antibes. A Sanremo chronicle (Borea, XVII-XIX) mentions the earthquake, without relating it to the town itself.

Effects at Taggia, Porto Maurizio and Monaco come only from later compilations: Lotti (1806?), Vassalli (XIX) and Bosio (1902) respectively.

Intensity assessment
Intensity will be assessed according to MSK-81. The assessement presents the typical problems related to the use of this scale for interpreting historical records; in particular, as sources do not supply information concerning building types nor about damage share between them, some assumptions will be made.
In principle, it seems reasonable to assume that both A-type and B-type buildings existed in the area. As for the damage, in many cases it cannot be easily referred to a single damage grade of the scales: in general, two hypothesis, a conservative (c) and a non-conservative one (n) will be made.
Sources generally refer damage to the totality of the buildings, without distinctions; therefore, using the MSK-81 scale two assumptions can be made for the damage share:
- damage is equally shared between A-type and B-type buildings (1);
- for the same damage grade, damage is larger for A-type than for B-type buildings (2).
By the way, using the EMS-92 scale (Grünthal, 1993), the first assumption becomes equivalent to the second one under the further assumption that most B-type buildings (MSK-81) were in a bad state of repair and, therefore, they can be considered as belonging to vulnerability class A (EMS-92).
Considering all possible combinations of assumptions, large intensity ranges (such as 7-9, meaning uncertainty between 7 and 9) can result: such ranges may be reduced if one has good reasons to stick to some precise assumptions.

La Bollène
This locality seems, without any doubt, the one which suffered the heaviest damage. Following the descriptions (Lubonis: "omnino devastatus et diruptus remansit"; Nostradamus: "La Boullene entierement et de fond en comble ruynée"), two damage distributions can be supposed:

The first one assumes that all buildings suffered damage of grade 4+5; the second one considers the description of the sources as slightly exaggerated.
Coming to the problem of damage share between A-type and B-type buildings, many theoretical distributions can be supposed. Leaving out the unrealistic ones, the upper and lower boundary can be represented by the following distributions c1 and n2 respectively which can be compared to the degrees of the scale:

These distributions lead to degrees IX-X and VIII (MSK-81) respectively; the same intensity range would be assessed if we assume that all buildings were of A-type (MSK 81), or vulnerability class A (EMS-92). The other possible distributions lead to intermediate figures. Therefore, intensity at La Bollène ranges between VIII and X, with VIII-IX as the most probable range.

Roquebillière and Belvédère
Following Lubonis' description ("in locis Rocabigliera et de Bello vedere fero pro dimidia remansit dirupta"), two damage distributions can be supposed:

In the same way as for La Bollène, the upper and lower boundary can be represented by the following distributions:

Intensity at Roquebillière and Belvédère ranges between VIII and IX.

Following Lubonis ("in loci autem Lantussie nonnule domus ruinate et nonnulle aliquantulum minantur ruina Ö"), two damage distributions can be supposed:

Once again, the upper and lower boundary can be represented by the following distributions:

The source (Blancardi: "a Clans aver gettato a terra quattordici case con grande uccisione di animali") refers about heavy damage to 14 buildings, but does not supply elements for assessing percentages. It seems reasonable to assume that Clans had a size similar to Belvédère or Roquebillière. In such a case, 14 buildings are between "Few" and "Many": an intensity VII-VIII follows.

Other localities
For Venanson, La Brigue and Saorge, damage is related only to single buildings, which are not a primary choice for assessing intensity: a tentative VI-VII can be proposed.
For Nice, Aix-en-Provence and Borgo San Dalmazzo the information does not allow to say more than "Felt", which can be tentatively translated into a range, such as III-V. The same holds for San Remo, Taggia and Porto Maurizio (today Imperia), though the records are less reliable as they come from late authors.
Following Mogiol (1564) an intensity at least of the same order of Roquebillière should be assigned also to Rimplas (probable identification of "Repella"); however, due to the poor description available, it seems more reasonable to assess a large intensity range, such as 7-9. The same figure can be proposed for the localities not identified (Sandalingi, Villaret and Rocca Marina quoted by Mogiol, 1564; Mage quoted by Nostradamus, 1616).

The intensity distribution proposed for the 1564 earthquake is presented in Fig. 1. The picture appears in some way poorer than the previous one supplied by Cadiot (1980): this is mostly due to the fact that some sources and records have been discarded by this study for the reasons explained earlier.
Intensities appear in general lower and more uncertain than in the previous study: the last point is due to the relative poorness of the records and to the choice of making explicit the procedures and assumptions adopted for assessing intensity.
Intensities in the most damaged area appears somewhat high with respect to the effects in Nice and the localities where the earthquake was only felt. This can be due to exaggerated reports or, simply, to the fact that the report damage was the cumulative result of a long seismic sequence and of landslide effects, at least at certain spots.

Finally, it is stressed again that assessing intensity from historical data, mostly when they are so poor, requires either that assumptions are made transparent for the users or that large uncertainties are accepted; in general, intensity assessment should not be forced into sharp figures when data do not support them.

Fig. 1 - The intensity distribution proposed for the 1564 earthquake.


Mogiol (1564)
"... In dem hat sich ain seer hoher und grosser Berg in der Mitten auffgethan / inn zway thail / mit solchem grewlichen und schrocklichen anblick / gleich wie der Berg ETNA / der würfft für und für feuer auff / gleicher werk diser Berg auch feuer flamen bis an Himel ubersich auffwirfft / darob auch ain yegkliches gross Berg erschreckn mag / und send durch disen grossen Erdbiden / Siben Stett verdorben und untergangen / Das man nit das wenigest davon sehen kan / Nemlich dise Stett / ROCCA MARINA. REPELLA. SANDALINGI. ROCCA BALLIERA. VILLARET. MORENA und ROCCIA. Auch so sein andere umbligende Stett unnd flecken in dem Tal und gebirge dermassen verwürft unnd veredorben / Das die Lant sich beforchten / und den Mut nit haben zu bewonen / und das übrige Volk so in diesem betrübten Jammer und Elend nicht ist umgekommen ..."

Lubonis (1565?)
"De admirabili hora et horrendo terremotu in comitatu Niciense facto.
Anno ipsi millesimo quingentesimo [quinquagesimo deleted] sexagesimo quarto indictione septima et die iovis vigesima iulii circa unam horam noctis fuit quidam terremotus in Comitatu Niciense absque tamen aliquo damno veruntamen tota nocte per illius discursum sepius iterato ipso terremotu in vale Lantusie qui adeo infremuit et impetum fecit ut locus Bolene omnino devastatus et diruptus remansit ad quod omnes parietes domorum dirupte sunt et duo partes ex tribus personarum eiusdem loci mortui sunt et fere alia tertia pars remansit vulnerata in locis rocabigliera et de bello vedere fere pro dimidia remansit dirupta et devastata adeo quod in loco Rocabigliera mortui sunt viginti due et fere sexaginta vulnerati in loci de bello vedere mortui sunt quinquaginta et totidem vulnerati in loci autem Lantussie nonnule domus ruinate et nonnulle aliquantulum minantur ruina et mortui sunt tres in loco autem Venanssoni eclesia parochialis ejusdem loci cum aliquibus domibus ruinata fuit Curatus cum octo viris et duabus feminis intra dictam ecclesiam mortuus est in loco Saurgi una pars Castri devastata fuit, Castrum pene dictionis janue devastatum fuit, pars Castri Vigintimiglie pariter ruinata fuit et quam pluries allii loci devastati fuerunt et continuavit ipse terremotus per aliquot dies videlicet per ....adeo quod omnes persone dictorum locorum adhuc degunt die ac nocte extra ipsa loca timentes mortem vicina non immerito et tanta audiverunt in loco Bolene et in alliis locis quod omnes persone remanent atonite cum timore magno et pluries persone mortue sunt ex rati timore et damno per eas passo et terremotus ipse continuavit usque ad festum pentecoste et sic fere per unum annum
a fol. 79 dicto, del prottocolo di Gio. Lubonis del 1564."
in Scaliero (1792), page inserted between pp. 211-212.

Grasso Dalmazzo (1570)
"Il giorno 20 di lugno for fatto un terremoto circa hore duoi di notte et alle 6 inanto l'alba, quali in queste nostre bande del Piemonte non fecero alcun danno ma sopra il territorio di Terranova cioé la Bolena con altre certe piccole terre per la ruina delle case che cascorono per il detto terremoto, più di 300 persone tra morti, feriti e stropiati restarono per esso terremoto durante hore 24."

Sobolis (1562-1607)
"Le XXe Julliet [1564] au dit an fut faict terre tremblant."

Nostradamus (1616)
"Desia le Soleil avoir passé iusques au signe du Lyon, où il estoit bien avant entré lorque des quartiers de Terre-neuve furent mandees au Comte de Tende certaines lettres contenant plusieurs esclandres y advenus de ce temps, dont telles estoyent les paroles.
Je cuyde que vous avez entendu la desolation qui est en ces montaignes de Terre-neuve où sont peries iusques à dix ou douze que villes que bourgades, et morts de huict à neuf cent hommes, ayant commencé telle mortalité et fleau de Dieu le vingt de Iuillet passé: si qu'une ville tombe aujourd'huy, l'autre demain. Les montagnes se fendent par le milieu, les roches se brisent et despecent, avec un bruit et tonnerre espouventable, de sorte que les pauvres gens ne peuvent estre seurs ny avoir retraitte salutaire aux champs ny aux villes. Le bestail demeure regardant au Ciel, comme implorant par quelque instinct de nature, et mortelle necessité la souveraine misericorde.
L'on entend dans les cavernes des grands cris et des hurlemens effroyables: encore mesme Mecredy passé beaucoup de maisons tomberent. Les deux tiers des habitans de Nisse couchent aux champs. Une grande partie du Chasteau de Vintimille est tombé par terre, avec la moytié du Convent. Somme que tous les quartiers des montagnes se fendent d'heure en heure, et à yeux voyans, dont est grande desolation. Escrit ce XX Iuillet MDLXIV.
En ce mesme temps passa par nostre ville de Sallon, un qui se disoit de ces quartiers là, lequel racomptant ces tristes choses et ces tant estranges prodiges, laissa un roolle en sa langue naturelle et Nissarde qui est comme un vieil Provençal des villes et chasteaux ruynez: en premier lieu Roche Begleure, et Mage où estoyent restés morts et accablés sous les ruynes, iusques au nombre de trois cens et plus, et trente blessés. Beauvers ruyné, trois cens morts et d'avantage. La Boullene entierement et de fond en comble ruynee, deux cens cinquante morts, et quatorze blessés. Lantousques à moytié ruynee, tous les pauvres habitans morts et accravantés, fors quatorze petits enfans. Venasque à moytié ruynee, trente-huict de morts, et unze blessés. Outre cela le chasteau de Cahours tombé avec le Pont, qui avoit cousté plus de cinquante mille escus, et le pas dict Mont-taillat, qui faisoit le grand chemin de Piedmont, lequel a deux grands Rochers fendus et taillez à force de ferrements et de marteaux acerés, pour faire le grand chemin de Nisse, et de Piedmont. S'estans ces rochers joincts et assemblés, entre lesquels passoit une grosse et bbruyante riuiere, qui s'est enfondree et perdue.
Davantage s'est ruyné le chasteau de la Bregue, et y sont mortes plusieurs personnes. Ö"

Blancardi (XVII?) [from Gioffredo, 1692]
"Più distintamente nota Gio. Francesco Blancardi di Sospello, aver questo terremoto fatto danno grandissimo alla Bolena con morte di seicento persone, e quantità grande di bestiami; a Belvedere aver ucciso 80 persone; a Roccabigliera molta gente sino dentro la chiesa; lo stesso aver fatto a Venanzone: finalmente a Clans aver gettato a terra quattordici case con grande uccisione di di animali."

Laurenti (XVII) [from Gioffredo, 1692]
"Onorato Laurenti, nel suo libro manoscritto delle cose di Belvedere, parla di questo terremoto come di cosa per sempre memorabile, dal quale afferma essere affatto stata rovinata la Bolena, e gran parte di Belvedere, nel qual luogo per tal accidente dice, che molti restarono oppressi dalle rovine, laddove nella Bolena morì la quarta parte degli abitanti: aver trattenuto il corso della Vesubia, fiume per altro molto rapido e impetuoso, lo spazio di una mezz'ora; aver fatte parecchie fessure ed aperture profondissime nei monti, che parea aver diviso in due, di dove uscivano tanti vapori, che causavano la notte tanti incendii, che parevano un Mongibello: allora il mare a guisa d'un fiume essere corso tanto innanzi, che coprì molte botteghe di Antibo, ed essere poi ritornato tanto indietro, che quasi lasciò il porto senz'acqua."

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