Tag Archives: history of Lisbon

Saturday 1 November 1755

Saturday 1 November 1755.

Many people were in church, celebrating All Saints Day.

Without warning the earth began to shake. Buildings swayed catching people unawares. Children began to cry. Men and women looked up, fearful of the growing rumble. Fissures rent the earth apart. Buildings began to crumble and fell in on themselves, rafters and masonry burying worshippers beneath their colossal weight.

Six minutes is all it took to raze one of the most modern European cities of the time to the ground. Those who survived these six infernal minutes ran outside, down to the docks, for fear of being buried beneath falling buildings.

They watched in fear as the water began to recede. 40 minutes later a wall of roiling water rushed up the Tagus River, the tsunami engulfing the city and taking the lives of those who’d survived the earthquake. Two more waves drowned the already destroyed city killing any survivors. Fires raged in the city for five days after.

The number of dead is disputed to this day. Reports say between 10,000 and 100,000 people died in the earthquake and tsunami of 1 November 1755. According to today’s seismologists, it measured a 9.0 on the Richter scale, making it one of the most severe quakes in history.

Most of Lisbon was decimated. Many historical buildings and libraries were destroyed, including the stunning Gothic Convento do Carmo. The ruins of this structure still stands today, untouched, as a reminder of that day.

The reconstruction of Lisbon led to seismically constructed buildings, probably the first such buildings in the world at the time. The Marquis of Pombal who led the reconstruction of the city tested wooden models before construction began to ensure that they could withstand another earthquake of that severity.

The earthquake of 1 November 1755 has affected the psyche of the Portuguese people and is part of the national identity, still, to this day. It was one of those events that redefined a people, who still talk about it today.

Simulating the Lisbon earthquake at the Lisboa Story Centre, an evocative and realistic simulation
©2017 Regina Martins

The story of the earthquake is evocatively told at the Lisboa Story Centre in the Praça do Commercio, at Terreiro do Paço. It showcases the history of Lisbon from pre-medieval times, through the earthquake to modern day. In a darkened room the earthquake is simulated, a movie projected on three walls and sound booming from hidden speakers, to try and convey an idea of what it was like all those centuries ago.

Saturday 1 November 1755.

Many people were in church, celebrating All Saints Day.

The day a city was reborn.

 

Photo Essay: Convento Do Carmo In Lisbon

I’ve been meaning to visit the ruins of the Convento do Carmo for years and this year took a detour on my way home to explore it from the outside. It’s situated in the Largo do Carmo, off course 🙂

Convento do Carmo, Lisboa
©2017 Regina Martins

It now houses the Lisbon archaeological museum.

Convento do Carmo, Lisboa
©2017 Regina Martins

The ruins are bold and imposing, dominating the upwards vista on one side of Rossio Plaza looking up the hill towards Bairro Alto.

Convento do Carmo, Lisboa
©2017 Regina Martins

Built in the Gothic style from 1389 to 1423, the Convento do Carmo (Carmo Convent) was mostly destroyed on 1 November 1755, the date of the catastrophic earthquake that razed Lisbon to the ground.

Convento do Carmo, Lisboa
©2017 Regina Martins

Despite the destruction, the ruins are breath-taking. I didn’t go in, choosing instead to explore the exterior. I am leaving that for the next visit.

Convento do Carmo, Lisboa
©2017 Regina Martins
Convento do Carmo, Lisboa
©2017 Regina Martins
Convento do Carmo, Lisboa
©2017 Regina Martins
Convento do Carmo, Lisboa
©2017 Regina Martins

The Castelo De S.Jorge is visible through the flying buttress. The convent has five  flying buttresses.

Convento do Carmo, Lisboa
©2017 Regina Martins

It was one of the largest and most ambitious architectural projects Lisbon had undertaken up until that time, both in terms of complexity of design and the numbers of people needed to construct it.

Convento do Carmo, Lisboa
©2017 Regina Martins

There were more than a few technical difficulties, starting with the foundations but also with the flying buttresses which collapsed twice.

Convento do Carmo, Lisboa
©2017 Regina Martins

It was commissioned by D. Nuno Álvares Pereira and handed over to Gomes Martins (no relation) to complete.

Convento do Carmo, Lisboa
©2017 Regina Martins

After the initial technical difficulties, it was handed over to three brothers to complete – Eanes, Afonso, Rodrigo and Gonçalo – who were master builders and stone masons.

Convento do Carmo, Lisboa
©2017 Regina Martins

One of the best preserved parts of the convent is the facade.

Convento do Carmo, Lisboa
©2017 Regina Martins
Convento do Carmo, Lisboa
©2017 Regina Martins

After years of looking up at the ruins, what I eventually found was certainly a surprise, especially the views of the Castelo de S.Jorge and downtown central Lisbon.

When you visit Lisbon it has got to be on your itinerary. I insist 🙂