Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod in 1752. During this time churches still believed that ringing church bells would ward off the lightning even though many died from lightning strikes while ringing the bell. (Many medieval church bells had the inscription Fulgura Frango which means “I break up the lightning flashes.”). From 1752 to 1786 103 French bell ringers were killed. In 1786 the French government outlawed the practice. One of the most tragic tales comes from Italy in 1769. Churches at the time also stored large amounts of gunpowder in their vaults. Saint Nazaire in Brescia, Italy had stored 207,000 pounds of gunpowder (that’s about 100 tons!). By now you’ve guessed what happened. In August of 1769 lightning stuck the tower of the church and the current passed through to the vaults. The explosion killed 3,000 people and destroyed one-sixth of the town. Lesson to take away: don’t store gunpowder in your church–at least not without a lightning rod.