Natural catastrophes could have a vast impact on the medieval civilization – they might ruin urban or regions, and also leave 10s of thousands dead or homeless. These catastrophes – earthquakes, floods, volcano eruptions – to be written about by chroniclers the the time, that left vivid accounts of the damage they caused. Right here are ten of the most vital natural tragedies that took location in the middle Ages.

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Destruction the Antioch in 526

During the duration of the roman Empire, Antioch was among the great cities that the east Mediterranean – it has actually been estimated that it had actually a population of over a million human being – and a top centre for Christianity. However, it was currently in decline in so late Antiquity, resulted in in part by earthquakes. The worst of this took location in late might 526. The chronicler Pseudo-Dionysius explains the scene:


It to be a terrible and distressing collapse, impossible for anyone to recount. Such to be the violent and harsh disaster, i m sorry was sent out from heaven, the fire alight and consumed those who had actually escaped indigenous the damaging vehemence that the cataclysm the the earthquake and also the collapse: the sparks flew and set fire to whatever on which they settled. The earth itself from below, from within the soil, surged, seethed and burned whatever which to be there. Thus the foundations as well, together with all the storeys over them, were lifted up, heaved up and down and also burst apart, collapsed, fell and burned through fire… In the end no home or church or building of any type of kind remained, not even the garden fences, which had not been torn asunder or damaged, or had actually not disintegrated and also fallen. The remainder burned, crumbled away and became like an extensive putrefaction.

Even the Patriarch the the city could not escape the destruction:

When the residence collapsed and also fell, he occurred to autumn into the cauldron. The whole of his human body sank under in it, and he was cooked in the pitch. His head was uncovered (hanging, together if he had) fainted, outside the in salt of the cauldron. Therefore he was known from his face, while his skeletal were found stripped the the flesh in the pitch…And fear and also trembling seized all who saw it.

Between 250,000 and 300,000 civilization died in the earthquake. The byzantine Emperor sent 500 pounds of yellow so the the city might be rebuilt, yet Antioch never ever recovered and also throughout the Middle ages it continued its decrease until by the 15th century as soon as it had actually only a couple of hundred world remaining.


The Year there is no Summer

In 2013 researchers announced the they had discovered that a volcano situated on Lombok Island in Indonesia explosive sometime between May and also October 1257, in it to be the biggest blast the planet had checked out in 7000 years.

The discovery has aided historians to understand the events of 1258, where cold temperatures damaged crops and also brought famine to lot of Europe. The English chronicler Matthew Paris wrote that during this year “the phibìc wind go out without intermission, a ongoing frost prevailed, attach by snow and such unendurable cold, that it bound up the face of the earth, sorely afflicted the poor, suspended all cultivation, and also killed the young of the cattle to such an level that it seemed as if a general plague was raging amongst the sheep and also lambs.” it is believed that London experienced as plenty of as 15,000 deaths the year, and also some scientists speculate the volcano explosion was one of the components in the little Ice period that affected global temperatures native the 14th to 19th centuries.

See Massive volcano explosion indigenous 1257 took location on Indonesian island, researchers find

Flooding in The Netherlands illustrated in the 15th century by understand of the St. Elizabeth’s Panel

The great Drowning of Men

The coastal areas approximately North Sea were vulnerable to flooding in the later on Middle periods – numerous chronicles report various floods in between the 11th and also 15th centuries. Among the worst was the Saint Marcellus’ overwhelming or Grote Mandrenke (‘Great drowning of Men’) the took ar on January 16, 1362. At the very least 25,000 people were killed when one Atlantic gale swept in northwestern Europe, affect the British isles to Denmark. Come learn much more see The an excellent Wind the 1362

The Mongol fleet destroyed in a typhoon, ink and also water top top paper, through Kikuchi Yōsai, 1847

The Kamikaze

The Mongols under Kublai cannes tried to attack Japan twice in the 13th century – the first time in 1274 and also the 2nd in 1281. On both occasions the fleets were destroyed by typhoons, which the Japanese thought was heavenly assistance. They called these storms Kamikaze, meaning ‘divine wind’. The huge fleets under the Mongol command – the second was reportedly 4 thousand ships transferring 140,000 men – were damaged by the typhoons, leaving the invaders either drown or captured.

The Sicily Earthquake the 1169

On the morning that February 4, 1169, a powerful earthquake to win the eastern coast of Sicily, i m sorry levelled towns, produced a tsunami, and also may have even reason Mount Etna come erupt. Sources location the fatality toll to be in between 15,000 and 25,000. One chronicler, Hugo Falcandus, describes the scene:

a destructive earthquake shook Sicily through such pressure that it was een feeling in Calabria, about Reggio and adjacent cities. The exceptionally wealthy city the Catania experienced such damage that not a single house endured within the city. Around 15,000 men and also women together with the bishop of that city and most of the minks to be crushed under collapsing buildings. At Lentini a fine town belonging come the Syrcausans, the weight of collapsing buildings shaken by the same earthquake killed most of the townspeople. Numerous fortresses were likewise destroyed in the region of the Catanians and Syracusans. In a number of places the earth gaped open and produced brand-new watercourses while closing up part old ones, and also that part of the summit that Etna which deals with Taormina appeared to sink down a little. In ~ Syracuse the an extremely famous spring dubbed Arethusa, which follow to legend brings water to Sicily by mystery channels native the city that Elis in Greece, changed from a trickle come a great flow, and it water turn salty because of the amount of sea water mixed up in it.

The Tauredunum event

The Swiss city that Geneva was ruined in 563 once a landslide top top one end of Lake Geneva resulted in a tsunami transparent the narrow. A couple of historic accounts define what happened, consisting of Gregory of Tours’ history of the Franks:

A great prodigy showed up in Gaul at the fortress that Tauredunum, i beg your pardon was situated on high ground over the river Rhône. Here a curious bellowing sound to be heard for an ext than sixty days: then the entirety hillside was break-up open and separated native the hill nearest to it, and also it fell into the river, carrying v it men, churches, property and houses. The financial institutions of the river were blocked and also the water flowed backwards. This ar was closeup of the door in by mountains on both sides, for the stream flows there through narrow defiles. The water climate flooded the greater reaches and submerged and carried everything which was on that is banks.

A second time the citizens were take away unawares, and also as the gathered water required its method through again it drowned those who lived there, just as it had actually done higher up, ruining their houses, killing their cattle, and also carrying away and also overwhelming through its violent and also unexpected inundation everything which was standing on its banks as far as the city the Geneva. That is told by many that the mass of water to be so good that it went over the walls into the city mentioned. And also there is no doubt of this tale since as we have actually said the Rhone operation in that region between mountains that hem the in closely, and also being so very closely shut in, it has actually no ar to turn aside. It carried away the pieces of the mountain that had actually fallen and thus resulted in it come disappear wholly.

In 2012 researcher at the university of Geneva check what had actually happened in the Tauredunum event, and also concluded that a comparable landslide can cause an additional tsunami ~ above the lake.

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The Syrian Earthquake of 1202

On may 20, 1202 an earthquake struck southwest Syria. It is thought to have actually been about a size of 7.6 ~ above the Richter scale, and also was feeling as far away together Sicily. The earthquake caused extensive damage to both Crusader and also Muslim areas throughout the eastern Mediterranean, leveling cities and also castles. While one modern source locations the variety of dead at 1.1 million, modern-day historians think that the number was an ext likely in the tens of thousands. The devastation was seen as critical factor in the extension of a truce in between Crusaders and Muslim states. Read an ext in the article Crusader castle torn personally by earthquake in ~ dawn, 20 may 1202

A wind storm is blowing from ideal to left on the picture. A tree is pulled up from the ground. The church to the right loses that spire and the house adjacent loses that roof. Native Olaus Magnus 16th century work-related Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus

Tornado strikes London in 1091

The Chronicon ex Chronicis of john of Worcester relates the on October 16, 1091, “a violent whirlwind indigenous the south-west shook and demolished an ext than six hundred houses and a great number of churches in London. Rushing v the church of St. Mary, called ” le Bow,” it killed two men, and tearing increase the roof and also timbers, and whirling them for a lengthy time to and also fro in the air, at last drove six of the rafters, in the exact same order in which lock were before fixed in the roofs, so deep into the planet that just the saturday or eighth component of them to be visible, return they to be twenty-seven or twenty-eight feet long.”

While rare, tornadoes have been recorded in countless medieval sources. One scholar has found at the very least 21 instances where a tornado was watched in Britain during the middle Ages.

See also:

‘The Flood’ that 1524: The very first Mass-media occasion in european History

First historical evidence of a far-ranging Mt. Etna eruption in 1224

Medieval records burned light top top Italian earthquakes

The Danube Floods and also Their Human solution and tardy (14th come 17th C)

Top Image: Medieval photo of one earthquake, v ruins and fallen stars, and also the dead in holes. Brothers Library MS imperial 19 B XV f. 11v