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

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Ute Eisinger* and Rolf Gutdeutsch *
* Institut für Meteorologie und Geophysik, Universität Wien, UZA II, Stiege G, Ebene 5,
Nordbergstraße 17, 1090 Wien, Austria.

The Villach Earthquake of December 4th, 1690
in the German Sources

On December 4th, 1690 a destructive earthquake occurred in the Eastern Alps. It caused considerable damage in the area not far from Villach/Carinthia and killed at least 24 people.
The research on this event was carried out by two teams of seismologists and historians: one has investigated Italian and former Yugoslavia sources (Barbano et al., 1994), the second one the sources of German speaking area.
This event is of interest to geoscientists for several reasons. Firstly, it occurred next to the periadriatic lineament, an important geological boundary which separates the Southern from the Eastern Alps. This lineament approximately follows the boundary between the North Italian highly active seismic zones and the Northern areas with low seismic activity. It caused the greatest damage not far from the epicentral area of another probably stronger event, which happened 342 years earlier, in January 25th 1348. A recent study (Hammerl, 1992) brought to light that the greatest damage related to this earlier event occurred in Friuli and not in Villach. Obviously very few but strong earthquakes are typical for this area where the seismic activity of the 20th century is remarkably low. This feature seems important for seismic hazard analysis.

Contradicting opinions about the size of the earthquake
The 1690 event has been mentioned by many catalogues, e.g. Toperczer and Trapp (1950) as well as Postpischl (1985), who gives an epicentral intensity Io = IX. In contrast to this estimate, Sieberg (1940) comes only to Io = VIII-IX. The felt area extended from North Italy to Poland, from Saxonia to the Rhine.
There is one more reason which make the straight forward interpretation of this event difficult. Germany has only a moderate seismic activity. But, just in that time one or possibly two earthquakes happened in the same time. On November 23rd, 1690, probably at 9.00, in the morning a shock shattered parts of Thuringia. The epicentre of this shock was in the Thuringia basin. Interpreters of the 20th century (Sieberg, 1940) have distinguished this shock from the Villach earthquake by the time difference. But, as shown below, the strange spatial concentration of reports in this area makes thinkable a confusion of these two shocks by coeval reporters. Furthermore, it is striking that notable earthquake reports from another event, that of December 4th, 1690 also come from towns as Frankfurt, Strasbourg and Köln, with distances more than 500 km from the epicentre. These reports are not clear enough to decide whether they describe near field effects of a smaller shock or far field effects of a greater earthquake. It seems thinkable, that contemporaries have associated these reports with those of another damaging earthquake, namely that of December 18th, 1690 at 17.30 with the epicentre not far from Aachen. Places as Köln or Strasbourg mentioned here are insofar important as, if they can be associated with the Villach event, they contribute to our information of the size of the felt area.

Present state of the investigations
In view of the huge area afflicted by the earthquake, the Austrian team applied a method of researching the perceptibility area as follows. It used the references to sources mentioned in the earthquake literature and traced them back to the original, coeval information. As a matter of fact, by passing back to the original sources "new" coeval documents were discovered.
We define as îoriginal sourceî a document written or printed not later than 10 years after the earthquake, that means before 1700. Later texts belong to the category of îearthquake literatureî. At present the sources referring to the area of Austria and the former DDR (Eastern Germany) have been investigated. In this paper preliminary results will be presented while the analysis of the sources is reported in Eisinger (1991) and will not be discussed here. A thorough study and tracing back of sources of the catalogues of Sieberg (1940) for Germany, Karnik et al. (1956) for the area of the former CSFR and Giessberger (1924) for Bavaria is still missing. The present state of the art has been documented by the map (Tab. 1 and Fig. 1).

0 Gmünd 21 Leitmeritz 42 Leipzig 63 Kempten
1 Klagenfurt 22 Neisse 43 Meißen 64 Köln
2 Millstadt 23 Mähr.Trübau 44 Meltzen 65 Kulmbach
3 Nöring 24 Varnsdorf 45 Naumburg 66 Memmingen
4 Radenthein 25 Altenburg 46 Nemsdorf 67 München
5 St. Paul 26 Bad Düben 47 Pegau 68 Nördlingen
6 Spittal/Drau 27 Bautzen 48 Siegersdorf 69 Nürnberg
7 Tröbing 28 Bischofswerda 49 Torgau 70 Passau
8 Villach 29 Borna 50 Weimar 71 Rechberg/Burg
9 Völkermarkt 30 Buttstädt 51 Weissenfels 72 Regensburg
10 Wernberg 31 Dresden 52 Wittenberg 73 Rothenburg
11 Graz 32 Eisenberg 53 Augsburg 74 Straßburg
12 Admont 33 Erfurt 54 Bamberg 75 Straubing
13 Mauterndorf 34 Gera 55 Bayreuth 76 Zittau
14 Salzburg 35 Guörlitz 56 Bopfingen 77 Ljubljana
15 Wels 36 Guben 57 Frankfurt 78 Venezia
16 Wien 37 Halle 58 Gunzenhausen 79 Praha
17 Wr.Neustadt 38 Jena 59 Hanau 80 Rakovnik
18 Breslau 39 Calbe 60 Heidelberg    
19 Brieg 40 Kayna/Zeitz 61 Hohentrüdingen    
20 Glatz 41 Lauban 62 Ingolstadt    

Tab. 1 - The 1690 Villach earthquake: localities quoted by German sources and catalogues.

Fig. 1 - Intensity distribution for the 1690 earthquake (localities quoted
by Sieberg for the November 23rd, 1690 earthquake are underlined).

Places referred by original sources were marked and indicated with their presumable intensity. Places mentioned in the earthquake literature, as by Sieberg (1940), Karnik et al. (1956), Reindl et al. (1902-1903) or Giessberger (1924) have been marked by open circles; this means that at present this source has not been justified, and an intensity has not yet been assessed.
The map also shows towns, taken from Sieberg (1940), where the earlier and smaller earthquake of November 23rd, 1690 was felt. One gets the impression that these locations drop into an area with anomalous high observation density of the Villach earthquake of December 4, 1690. Thus, it seems thinkable, that several of the contemporary witnesses have mixed up these two events. Future studies will bring to light, whether this suspicion can be confirmed or not.

Effects of the earthquake in the epicentral area and at Villach
The area of Villach was administrated by the authorities of the bishop of Bamberg. Therefore a short line of communication existed between Villach and places near Bamberg. Convincing and clear contemporary sources of this shock have been found in the epicentral area Villach, Gmünd, Nöring, Millstadt, Völkermarkt, St. Paul, Spittal a.d. Drau and Klagenfurt, where the event caused severe building damages. At this place we will discuss sources about Villach in more detail, as the building damage and the number of victims show that this town has been suffered the most. In Villach 24 persons died during or after the earthquake as we know from the list of casualties (ACSJ, 1690). It strikes, that most of the victims are women and children. 244 citizens of Villach (Klein, 1980) owned houses and were registered in 1667 as having civil rights. The number of victims, compared with the assumed total population of 3000, seems rather low. The sources refer to building damages in a rather general way. We know that the tower of the church St. Jacob tumbled down. But it cannot be traced out exactly which houses collapsed, as the first map of Villach appeared in Bamberg in 1738 (GAB, 1738) 48 years after the earthquake. The map indicates buildings in bad structural condition, but they may be damaged by the great fire in 1713, which destroyed a part of the town. After the earthquake the whole town was in reconstruction scaffoldings for decades (Reindl, 1902-1903). During the 18th century it had been rebuilt.

This work is part of and investigation of the Villach earthquake, which will be published in the series of "Monographs of Historical Earthquakes in Central Europe". It is financially supported by Project Nr. P8935 "Historische Seismizität im Alpin-Pannonischen Raum" of the Fund of Supporting Scientific Research in Austria.

ACSJ (Archive of the Church St. Jacob, Villach), 1690. Totenfaszikel, 1.
Barbano, M.S. et al., 1994. Sources for the study of the Eastern Alps earthquakes in the turn of the 17th century. this volume.
Eisinger, U., 1991. Typology of earthquake text. The Carinthian earthquake of 1690. In: J. Kozak (Editor), Proc. 3rd ESC Workshop on "Historical Earthquakes in Europe", Liblice by Prague, 4-6 April 1990, pp. 241-251.
GAB (Government Archive of Bamberg), 1738. Roppelt-Kataster für die Stadt Villach, Rep. A 221/7, ms. 2919, p.15f.
Giesseberger, H., 1924. Die Erdbeben Bayerns. 1. Teil, Abhandlungen der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Math., Nat. Klasse Bd. 29, München.
Karnik, V., Michal, E. and Molnar, A., 1956. Erdbebenkatalog der Tschechoslowakei bis zum Jahre 1956. Travaux de l'Institute Géophysique de l'Académie Tschécoslovaque des Sciences, 69, Geofysikální Sbornik.
Klein, K., 1980. Daten der Siedlungsgeschichte bis ins 16. Jarhundert. Materialien zu Wirtchafts- und Sozialgeschichte, 4, p. 128, Vienna.
Hammerl, Ch., 1992. Das Erdbeben vom 25. Jänner 1348 ñ Rekonstruktion des Naturereignisses. Diss. Univ. Wien, Vienna, 256 pp.
Postpischl, D. (Editor), 1985. Catalogo dei terremoti italiani dall'anno 1000 al 1980. Quad. Ric. Scient., 114, 2B, Bologna.
Reindl, J., 1902-1903. Die Erdbeben der geschichtlichen Zeit im Königreiche Bayern. Die Erdbebenwarte, 2.
Sieberg, A., 1940. Beiträge zum Erdbebenkatalog Deutschlands und angrenzender Gebiete für die Jahre 58 bis 1799. Mitteilungen des Deutschen Reichs-Erdbebendienstes, Heft 2, Berlin.
Toperczer, M. and Trapp, E., 1950. Ein Beitrag zur Erdbebengeographie Österreichs nebst Erdbebenkatalog 1904-1948 und Chronik der Starkbeben. Mitteilungen der Erdbeben Kommission, 65, pp. 1-59.

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