Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In which the earth moves for Conradus of Meydenburg

Left: "Men and Beasts perished."

Here's an interesting excerpt from the Treatise of Specters. It's a report of an earthquake taken from Johannes Aventinus (Johann Georg Turmair), 1477-1534, a Bavarian historian. He probably means the Friuli earthquake of 1348, which was centred in North Italy but felt much further afield - though I'm personally a bit doubtful about Norway! It happened the same year that the Black Death reached Italy, so many people concluded that the two events were evidence of God's wrath. 
I'm a little mystified by the rather horrible description of people reduced to statues of salt. I suppose it could be a little embroidery of the truth based on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible, also through the wrath of God, during which Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt. I wondered however whether there could be any scientific explanation for bodies being reduced to what appeared to be salt - if anyone has any suggestions I'd love to hear them!

294. In the year 1348, on the eighth Calends of February, In Norway a most great Earthquake did happen, as it is recorded at Pannonia, Illiricum, Dalmatia, Carnis and Histria, which lasted without any intermission for the space of fourty dayes; the Earth was variously shaken, wonderful works were shewed, Moravia and Bavaria felt the losse of twenty six Towns and Castles thereby thrown down, as it is related in the acts of that year; Men and Beasts perished, Walls, Temples, Buildings were overturned, whole Cities overthrown; moreover mountains burnt asunder, squeezed that ruinous destruction and losse of men: for two Mountains (as it were) ran to the devoured Cities, and being drawn violently to the Town of Elisa, killed all living Creatures that were therein; the gaping of the Earth, that thereupon ensued, partly remained as the Earthquake left it; but some part of it growing wider, swallowed up all before it, the soyl being so fallen into it, that there was no possible passage. Fifty men, and more rusticks, many kindreds, with Cattel, were overwhelmed, and the bodies reduced into Statues of salt. Conradus of Meydenburg, an excellent Philosopher and Mathematician, speaking of this tempestuous Earthquake, saith, That these Statues were seen by him and the Austrian Chancellor at Charmum. Aventinus in his Annal of the Bozori, book 7.

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