Campaniles, Earthquakes and Photoshop

The Campanile in St Mark’s Square in Venice is the only non-original structure in the square, the original having collapsed in 1902, but the new structure is a faithful replica of the original, and still provides fine views of the city:

St. Mark’s Campanile, Venice

View from the top

St Mark’s Square from the Campanile

I asked our tour leader if the cause of the collapse of the Campanile had been an earthquake.  No she replied, Venice is not subject to Earthquake activity.  That very night we were woken at 4:00 a.m. by vigorous shaking of our hotel rooms, due to a magnitude 6.1 earthquake north of Bologna.  Well she never claimed to be a seismologist.

In fact the actual direct cause of the actual collapse does not seem to have been an earthquake, although earthquake activity may well have contributed to the weakening of the structure over the years.  Searching the internet the best report I could find of the event came from, of all places, The West Gippsland Gazette of 23 Sep 1902, which may be viewed here:

Extract from the West Gippsland Gazzette report

Amongst the photographs of the collapse are many genuine shots of the resulting debris:

Collapsed campanile

but also many images claiming to show the actual collapse.  In fact these can easily be seen to have been manipulated photographs, and the technology of the time would not have allowed a sharp rendition of this sort of action shot, even in the unlikely event of a camera being pointed in just the right direction at the time.

Fake photograph of the collapse

I thought this was likely to have been the earliest example of a photograph being “Phot0-shopped”, but there is another Italian example from hundreds of years earlier which may well have that honour, and that will be the subject of my next report.

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3 Responses to Campaniles, Earthquakes and Photoshop

  1. Georg says:

    Doug, I fervently hope that you are still all right as well as that these M5.9 events are not the pre-shocks of something really big yet to come… would probably be an M8…
    INGV provides an online-list of the most recent events:


    • dougaj4 says:

      Georg – we have now moved on to Perugia (via Florence) and felt nothing on Tuesday morning. Are you living in the area of the earthquakes?


  2. Georg says:

    Hi Doug,
    oh no, I’m living in a very quake safe area of Germany… I studied geophysics as minor subject during my physics diploma many years ago… and I have dear friends living in Ovindoli (AQ). The children of theirs stayed at l’Aquila during the major event in April 2009 and were severly traumatised. As I’m involved in some projects concerned with evaluating GPS data from several geotectonically active regions in the mediterrainian, I’m always having a close look on what is going on there… even wikipedia-en has a page on the most recent major quake in the area of Perugia: . In 2010, when I took the children of my friends to the institute where I studied geophysics, it turned out that this very active region unfortunately is not in the centre of interest of leading geophysicists, obviously because the very complicated structure of the very many known existing fault lines does not promise short-term academic rewards because modeling seems impossible… Thus, I bet the very precise GPS measurements that happened to be performed in the framework of the possibly flawed neutrino flight time experiment ( , pdf, page 10) before and after the l’Aquila quake will provide unvaluable insight to geophysicists. Unfortunately, precise GPS measurements are available at reasonable costs only since the US decided to switch off SA in Gulf War I, i.e., for approximately 10 years. So it will take probably another hundred years before critical displacements in that area of the world will be known…
    Enjoy your stay


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