Messina (John Dickie)


On 28 December 1908 an earthquake, quickly followed by a tsunami, almost completely destroyed the cities of Messina, on the eastern coast of Sicily, and Reggio Calabria, which looks out across the Straits at Messina from the Italian mainland. The exact number of victims will never be known, but most estimates suggest that between 80,000 and 100,000 people died. Very many of these fatalities occurred in Messina: about one third of its 150,000 inhabitants is thought to have perished.

Today, many messinesi say that theirs is a city without memory.


The idea that Messina is a city without memory has become a commonplace for some of its citizens. That commonplace is the subject of this research project, which aims to trace its history, and explore the many different narratives about the earthquake and about the city that are expressed in the notion of the city without memory.

The two central results of my work on Messina are

  • A 55-minute film: ‘Messina: a city without memory?’
  • A long essay: ‘Messina: a city without memory?’

The research has also been disseminated at conferences and seminars.

Some of the issues driving my research are also explored briefly in this website. Follow this link to investigate earthquake-related monuments, plaques, and graves in Messina.

For further information about the documentary film, the essay or any other aspect of this research project, e-mail John Dickie.

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