Rhodes Goes Boom
April 3, 1856 - One of the greatest catastrophes of all time happened on this date. The Church of St. John on the Greek island of Rhodes was blown to smithereens. 4000 people died in the disaster.
The Byzantine church was built 450 years earlier and was part of the Palace of the Grand Master which had been home to the Knights of St. John. On the fateful night of its destruction the residents were Ottoman Turks. A massive storm was terrorizing the city. In those days, superstition dictated that church bells be rung to ward off lightning. Every bell on the island was clanging away when an infamous bolt zapped its way down the steeple of The Church of St. John.
The lightning made its way into the basement where the Turks had stored tons of gunpowder. The resulting explosion leveled the church and the palace.
It would remain in ruins for another eighty years before Mussolini decided that it should be rebuilt. The dictator would be dead before the work was completed, and now the reconstructed palace is a major tourist attraction.