The 1667 Dubrovnik earthquake was one of the two most devastating earthquakes to hit what is now modern Croatia in the last 2,400 years, since records began. The entire city was almost destroyed and around 5,000 people were killed. The city's Rector Simone Ghetaldi was killed and over three quarters of all public buildings were destroyed. At the time, Dubrovnik was the capital of the Republic of Ragusa. The earthquake marked the beginning of the end of the Republic.
Dubrovnik's region is located in the eastern part of the Adriatic Sea and is a narrow strip of land, dotted by a series of bays, with the Dinaric Alps in the background, and hundreds of islands along the coast.
The city of Dubrovnik was built in the most seismically active area in Croatia, which makes earthquakes the strongest in the whole country. It is the only Croatian town that is shown in red on the seismic map, which means that it is exposed to potential hazard of the strongest earthquakes, those of 10 degrees in the Mercalli scale.
The earthquake occurred at around 8 in the morning on April 6th, 1667. Survivors of the event witnessed a rumbling sound followed by a tremendous kick that rocked the city. This event is thought to be the biggest one in the history of Dalmatia and practically defines seismic hazard in the coastal area of Croatia.
Citizens of the city witnessed huge stones rolling down the hill of Srđ destroying everything in their way. Large cracks appeared in the land, and the city's water sources dried up. The dust created by the destroyed buildings were thick enough to obscure the sky. Later, a powerful tsunami devastated the port, flooding everything near the shore. Strong winds fueled fires from homes and bakeries, and the resulting blaze would not be extinguished for almost 20 days.
The Sponza and the Rector's palace were the only buildings that survived the natural disaster. The city was reconstructed in the baroque style that has survived intact to this day. Despite the reconstruction, the decline of the Mediterranean as a hub for trade meant that Dubrovnik, like other Mediterranean ports, began a steady decline. Overall, more than 6,000 people were killed, among whom were the Rector and half of the members of the Great council. The effects of the earthquake also resulted in the loss of half of the nobility population.
Alongside the fire, robbery had taken over the city as a result of the anarchy that followed, given that the earthquake killed the Rector and wiped out a great part of the government. People would cut ears and jaws from the dead to take their earrings and gold teeth. Everyone was stealing - rich and poor alike.