In 1769 a single lightning bolt killed 3000 people in Brescia, Italy, and caused a large part of the city to be destroyed!
For many centuries people stored gunpowder in churches under the misguided belief that church bells will prevent lightning strikes. We now know that the opposite is true. The tall steeples and towers will encourage lightning strikes.
The most unfortunate example of this happened in August 1769 in Italy. Over 200,000 pounds of explosives were stored in the Church of San Nazaro on Brescia when a single lightning bolt struck its tower.
The resulting explosion and fire killed 3000 people and destroyed a large part of the city.
It is interesting to note that Benjamin Franklin actively advised European governments about the principles of lightning protection for munition stores after the tragedy in Brescia.
Benjamin Franklin and an Englishman, Benjamin Wilson disagreed on which type of lightning protection would be the most effective. Franklin suggested the sharp, pointed rods on top of buildings. Wilson urged the use of ball shaped terminals below the roof line.
George III decided to go with the advice of his countryman and Franklin's rods were removed from many British munition stores and replaced with Wilson's design. One of Wilson's balls disappeared with a big bang during a lightning storm!
Benjamin Franklin became the first person to initiate explosives with electricity and was well ahead of other scientists around the world.