The 1708 earthquake
During the summer of 1708, a strong earthquake destroyed and damaged most of the buildings in Manosque. Fortunately there were no human victims.
The town of Manosque has suffered two strong earthquakes – on the 13th of December 1509 and the 14th of August 1708. There is no trace of the first in the archives, but the violence of the second is well recorded. According to stories at the time of the event, more than one hundred houses were destroyed, and all the others were damaged. After this strong quake, and those that followed, the Hospitaliers castle, situated on what is now the place du Terreau, “that could be called a rock because of its amazing solidity, despite the threat of ruin, neither the tower, the walls, nor the arch were damaged.” The churches were also damaged. The Hôtel-Dieu, already dilapidated, was practically uninhabitable after the event: “the nuns and the poor patients were obliged to leave the building for fear that they be trapped and wounded in the ruins at any minute.”
Surprisingly, there were no deaths recorded due to the earthquake, only some temporary burials which were not very serious. On the 21st of August, there was a procession of the consuls, followed by the town’s clergy and inhabitants, to the Our-Lady chapel at Toutes-Aures, to thank God for having saved them. And they vowed to do so on Assumption Sunday each year. After several days of tremors, on the 22nd of August the Manosque population completely deserted the town. A chronicler tells, “during this hasty exodus, we saw honest women and well-behaved girls, taken by surprise in a slip or negligee, and escape in such a state, appearing in public half-naked without realising how indecent they were”. One paralysed man, abandoned alone in his bed at the Hôtel-Dieu, was suddenly miraculously able to walk, and fled with the rest of the population… Of course, these anecdotes make us smile, but they show the impact of the earthquake on Manosque, and the strong image it left in the collective memory.