ON THE NIGHT OF JANUARY 14th, 1968 a terrible earthquake shook the Valle del Belice area in Sicily, destroying several towns.
The earthquakes on 14 January did little damage, but many of the inhabitants spent the following night sleeping outside, during which the most damaging of the shocks occurred, which probably greatly reduced the number of casualties. The official death toll was 231 with a further 623 injured. Other estimates give more than 400 dead with over 1,000 injured. An estimated 100,000 people were made homeless by the earthquakes.
One of these towns, Gibellina, was completely erased and rebuilt several years later at a nearby location. The site of the village ruins, however, was given over to artist Alberto Burri who turned the disaster area into a permanent memorial known as the Cretto di Gibellina or Il Grande Cretto. Burri covered the footprints of the destroyed buildings with concrete creating an angular, industrial reminder of the village’s original layout and street plan. Building rubble, furniture pieces, utensils, and toys are also left underneath the cretto’s cement. Most affecting of all is the deep, eerie silence which surrounds visitors as they walk the “streets” of Cretto di Gibellina, leaving nothing but reflection over the destruction and the misery of that 1968 night.
Even properties outside the village proper were left to crumble and surround the Cretto itself.