The City of Catania suffered several damaging events in the seventeenth century; for example, the eruption of 1669 and the catastrophic earthquakeon the 11th January 1693, which destroyed almost the whole city.
Two legends are linked to this terrible cataclysm: the legend of “Don Arcaloro” and the legend of “Bishop Carafa’.
The first one tells about the morning of the 10th of January 1693. A feared and famous local witch went to the Baron Don Arcaloro Scammacca of Catania’s palace and ordered him to appear at the window. She explained that she needed to relay some information of utmost urgency and importance: it was a matter of life and death!
The servants would not let her pass but Don Arcaloro let her enter because he knew her.
The old witch told the Baron that during the night she had dreamt of Sant’Agata begging the Lord to save her city from the earthquake.
But the Lord refused to grant her wish, because of the grave sins committed by people from Catania. The Lord spoke of about a prophecy: “Don Arcaloru, Don Arcaloru, dumani. A vintin’ura, a Catania s’abballa senza sonu“. (“Don Arcaloru, Don Arcaloru, tomorrow at 8 o’clock Catania will be dancing in silence“).
The cautious Baron understood immediately what “dancing in silence” meant; and after had lavishly rewarded the old witch, he fled to the countryside, where he waited for the fatal hour. The earthquake took place with its catastrophic consequences, at the right time predicted by the witch.
The second legend, linked to the earthquake of 1693, talks about the Bishop Francesco Carafa, who ruled the secular authority of Catania from 1687 to 1692.
According to the legend, this good bishop saved twice his beloved city of the risks of earthquake thanks to his fervent praying.
He died in 1692. The year after his death, Catania was destroyed by the earthquake, since his prayers were no longer made.