About the complete destruction of Saint Pierre on the Caribbean island of Martinique in 1902
The Caribbean town of Saint Pierre was destroyed in 1902 by a pyroclastic flow from nearby Mount Pelée, a volcano 7 km N. of it.
Saint Pierre was founded in 1635 by a French trader and adventurer, Pierre Belain d’Esnambruc.
The town was twice destroyed:
- in 1780 by a flood due to a storm, killing 9.000 inhabitants;
- in the morning of May 8th 1902 (Ascension Day) by the eruption of the nearby volcano, killing in three minutes almost 30.000 people, that was the complete population of the town, except for a prisoner (who was protected by the thick walls of his prison), somebody who lived on the outer edge of town and a small girl who had fled with her brother’s rowing boat; the first two had severe burn wounds. All ships, except one, that were moored in the harbour, were also destroyed by fire. This was the deadliest volcano eruption of the 20th century.
A pyroclastic flow is a burning cloud of hot gas and volcanic matter that travels very rapidly (up to 700km/h). Pompeii and Herculaneum had also been destroyed in the same way in 79 AD.
Saint Pierre was known as the Little Paris of the Antilles, of the West Indies. It was famous for its busy harbour, steep paved streets, stone architecture, an 800 seated theatre inspired by the one from Bordeaux, 15 rum distilleries, ornate fountains overflowing with fresh mountain water, and a botanical garden.
The scale and speed of the disaster, even now, is almost unimaginable. Minor eruptions and massive falls of ashes had already occured, the fifth of May poisonous snakes and centipedes had fled into town and killed up to 50 people and over 200 animals, the same day a pyroclastic mudflow killed 23 people. The animals had fled, but not the humans: it was a political decision (there were elections due the 11th), based on “scientific research”, not to leave the town.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because this is a rare painted view of Saint Pierre, made 14 years before its destruction.