While there are ancient castles, churches and convents, some dating from as early as the 11th century, much of Lisboa is “new,” built after 1755.
On the morning of All Saints’ Day in 1755, Lisboa was struck by a major earthquake, one estimated to have been of an 8.7 magnitude. With towering church walls crumbling around them, many fled Mass for the safety of the riverfront, only to be swallowed by tsunami surges sweeping away broad swathes of the quay. Raging flames then began to leap from rooftop to rooftop throughout the city.
By the time the cascading disasters subsided, more than a quarter of Lisboa’s 250,000 inhabitants had perished. Most of the exquisite buildings dating from Portugal’s golden age lay in ruin.
The lower, center part of the city was razed. Sprawling networks of rabbit-warren streets were replaced by huge public squares connected by broad avenues. Elegant new buildings with earthquake-resistant walls began to line the boulevards.
Today’s Lisboa is vibrant and beautiful.