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Surprising Science

On This Day in 1356, a Major Earthquake Destroyed the Town of Basel, Switzerland

Today is the 658th anniversary of the most significant seismic event in the record history of Central Europe. A magnitude 7.0 earthquake decimated the Swiss town of Basel and leveled every church within 30 km.

Major seismic activity is rare in the areas of Europe north of the Alps, yet on this date in 1356, a huge earthquake decimated the region and left the Swiss town of Basel in ruins. Over a thousand people perished in the destruction. Every church within 30 km of Basel was reduced to rubble. It’s said the quake could be felt as far as Paris.

As Switzerland sits upon an active fault, the country has spent years preparing for a potential catastrophic quake. A major geothermal project was abandoned a few years back for cautionary reasons amidst fears of unwanted seismic repercussions. Switzerland’s earthquake risk is considered average to moderate relative to other seismically volatile world regions.

The above image is the work of 19th-century Swiss painter Karl Jauslin, who has been written about plenty in the German language yet is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world. Jauslin’s body of work consisted mostly of paintings depicting notable events in Swiss history. I’ve included a few below.

The Assassination of Swiss Reformation Leader Huldrych Zwingli in 1531

The 1339 Siege of Solothurn

The 1386 Battle of Sempach

For more of Jauslin’s work, visit his page on WikiCommons.


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