Earthquake Hits The Capital City of Portugal, Lisbon – 11/01/1755

US History |

On this day in 1755, a terrible earthquake hits Portugal's capital city Lisbon, claiming the lives of an estimated 50,000. Following the incident, which resulted in a massive destruction of lives and properties, the city had to be rebuilt from scratch.

During the eighteenth century, Lisbon was the Portugal's capital and largest city, boasting of numerous wealth. The discovery of diamonds and gold in the Portuguese colony in Brazil enriched many citizens of the country, turning them into wealth merchants and successful businessperson. With population not more than 3 million people, only 10 percent of the citizen lived in Lisbon, which serve as one of the biggest and largest port on the Atlantic Ocean. This made the city popular among other states, while it played a major role in world trade. By 1755, the city had become a home to many Catholic authorities and one of the key centers of Catholicism.

Three-earth tremor hit Lisbon within ten minutes on All Saints Day, while the most devastating one of the quakes was believed to have had a magnitude of 8.0, although it was just a speculation since there was no sophisticated equipment to detect the magnitude of the quakes. In addition, Morocco as far as it was to Lisbon felt the shaking of the tremors.

The effect of the quakes was felt all throughout the city, which resulted to a 20-foot tsunami that blew up the coast and washed away thousands of people. Those that were observing the All Saints Day in churches as at the time of the incident died inside the buildings they were worshipping. Within few minutes, fire had already broken out in the streets, and spread quickly with the help of the wind. Lives were lost, properties destroyed including the Royal Palace. The nation's preserved heritage, books, arts and architecture were all destroyed in the incident.

After the incident, Marquis of Pombal known for his swift and competent leadership skills after the devastating incident of 1755 was elected as the Prime Minister and given the mantle of rebuilding the city. Work started in the city and major changes were carried out for example, wide avenues replaced Lisbon narrow streets. The restructuring was a success, yet some people find means of interpreting the tragedy to soothe their reasoning. Some religious sect declared that the devastating incident was God's handwork to punish the city for its sins. In fact, this line of reasoning alongside those who believed that all that happened was predestined inspired Voltaire to write a book titled Candide.

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Edward Arroyo


Edward attended college at Northwestern University where he received his bachelors in journalism. After graduation he spent the next several years traveling the world writing about his experiences on his own personal blog. His hobbies include travel, photography, bicycling and hanging out with his dog Milo.