The Lisbon earthquake of 1755

The Lisbon earthquake of 1755

We are used to seeing earthquakes and tsunamis in remote areas such as the Pacific countries. But they do not only take place in those areas. At century XVIII, an earthquake and subsequent tsunami swept through the Portuguese capital, Lisbon.

Took place on Saturday, November 1, All Saints' Day, 1755 about 9:30 in the morning. At that time, most of the city's inhabitants they headed to the churches and holy places to honor their dead. The earthquake lasted about five minutes with a intensity of 9 on the Richter scale.

Representation of the disaster in Lisbon

In the city streets it began to crack the ground, opening cracks up to 5 meters wide. Buildings they collapsed, falling a large number of stones to the streets. Citizens quickly left their homes, leaving burning candles and braziers, prompting a big fire in the whole city. The inhabitants went to two places, to the beach and the nearby hills.

However, the worst was yet to come. Most of the survivors they went to the beach thinking it was the safest place. About 10 in the morning the citizens watched in astonishment how the waters of the sea retreated, leaving the boats anchored in the sand. Shortly after, around 11, a giant wave of almost twenty meters swept the beach and penetrated about 8 kilometers into the city devastating everything in its path, including the royal palace. Several smaller aftershocks occurred throughout the day well into the afternoon.

About 90,000 people died out of a population of 300,000 inhabitants. The king Joseph I and his family were saved thanks to the fact that that morning they had come to the church of Santa María de Belém, the least affected area. Many of the victims occurred because they were in the churches because it was All Saints' Day and the roof collapsed on them. They died in the Royal Hospital of All Saints hundreds of sick people burned by fires.

The Marquis of Pombal before the destruction of Lisbon

Other consequences was the loss of artwork of world-renowned artists such as Titian or Rubens, the loss of the thousands of copies that were in the Royal Library; the destruction of the Royal Opera House, the Royal Archives, the tomb of the national hero Nuno Álvares Pereira, the Cathedral of Santa María and countless churches.

After the earthquake, the royal family decided to live outside the city, on the Ajuda hill, near Lisbon, despite the fact that the royal palace had been rebuilt. The Marquis of Pombal led recovery efforts. He ordered the army to surround the city to prevent healthy men from fleeing, since they were obliged to participate in the debris removal tasks. He had the remaining fires in the city extinguished, the bodies of the deceased recovered and bury them quickly to prevent the spread of disease. Gallows were erected throughout the city to execute looters.

The most affected area was Cidade Baixa, which after being rebuilt was called Baixa Pombalina. Several Portuguese cities were rebuilt. A type of earthquake resistant building, the pombalines. It could be rebuilt quickly, just a year, thanks to the treasures brought from the colonies of Brazil.

Scope of the Lisbon earthquake in the world

But it did not only affect Lisbon, although it was the most affected. Other countries were affected. About 10,000 people died in Morocco. In Spain numerous constructions were affected, such as the Cathedral of Valladolid or Jaén; in Ayamonte about 1,000 people died; cities like Sanlucar de Barrameda they were destroyed. Too tsunamis occurred in areas of America, England or Denmark.

With a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, since I was a child I have been attracted to the world of information and audiovisual production. Passion for informing and being informed of what is happening in every corner of the planet. Likewise, I am pleased to be part of the creation of an audiovisual product that will later entertain or inform people. My interests include cinema, photography, the environment and, above all, history. I consider it essential to know the origin of things to know where we come from and where we are going. Special interest in curiosities, mysteries and anecdotal events in our history.


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