The first of November 1755 a catastrophe shocked the world: the Lisbon earthquake. The monumental disaster inspired poets, interested philosophers, angered prophets and motivated politicians. The epicenter of the Portuguese Empire was reduced to the insignificance of human work: in one breath, all the wonders of technique and progress were destroyed as constructions for children.
The eighteenth century Lisbon was a medieval city, full of small, winding and dirty streets. Reports say that around 9:30 am, the city was shaken by a major earthquake.
The effect of the earthquake in a city in this condition was devastating, and reports say that the tremors lasted up to seven minutes, although there are reports that suggest it may have lasted for 15 minutes. The epicenter of this earthquake was about 200 km to 300 km from Lisbon, more precisely to the southwest of mainland Portugal, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Current studies estimate that the 1755 tremor reached 8.9 on the Richter scale (the scale goes up to 10).
The magnitude of this earthquake contributed to the total destruction of the city.
And as if it is not enough, as it was the day of all Saints, in the churches, prepared with candles for the day’s ceremonies, fires started that ended up burning in the city for five days.
Obviously, nobody got a scientific explanation for what was happening, and what they thought was divine wrath. The only possibility was to escape.
Many people in the midst of despair and fleeing the landslides and fires that hit other parts of the city fled to Baixa de Lisboa. There, these people were hit by three tsunami that affected the entire region.
Thus, many of those who did not die in the landslides and fires died as a result of the tsunami that flooded this part of Lisbon. Regarding the earthquake, historian João Lúcio de Azevedo narrated the following:
The images oscillate on the altars; the walls dance; beams and columns are desoldered; the walls collapse with the bald sound of churning chalk and crushed human bodies; on the ground where the dead rest, the caves, to swallow the living […]. The horror of hell in woes and torments. Disorganized escape with fatal accidents, and the continuous stumbling over stones and corpses […]. Ruins everywhere | 1 |.
At the time, Lisbon had about 200 thousand inhabitants and the death toll varies considerably, as there are those who point out about 10 thousand deaths, while others suggest more than 50 thousand deaths in the disaster.
In addition to human lives, material destruction was enormous. The Royal Library was destroyed with more than 70 thousand volumes of items stored there. The Tagus Opera House, which opened that year, was destroyed and the destruction of 35 churches, 55 palaces was listed and across the city it is believed that around 10,000 buildings have been reduced to ruins.
Reconstruction of Lisbon
The emergency actions after the earthquake were taken immediately through the action of Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, future marquis of Pombal. The reconstruction works of the city extended until the middle of the 19th century.
The first major action taken was to prevent the proliferation of disease and, therefore, it was necessary to bury the dead. Most of the bodies were incinerated with the gigantic fires that spread through Lisbon, but many remained below the ruins. To get rid of the bodies, the dead were buried in mass graves and many were thrown into the sea with weights tied to make them sink.
One step taken to stem the proliferation of chaos brought on by the earthquake was to prevent looting. This was even part of a list of fourteen measures adopted by order of Carvalho e Melo. Those captured by looting a residence were hanged by Kingdom troops.
The buildings that were rebuilt had strict guidelines to be followed with a fine forecast for non-compliance.
Baixa de Lisboa, the most destroyed area, became known as Baixa Pombalina and received a great innovation for the time: the projected buildings received an anti-seismic structure. This structure became known as the “pombaline cage”. This technique consisted of incorporating a wooden structure close to the masonry walls.
The Portuguese king – d. José I – began to suffer the rest of his days with claustrophobia. He survived the disaster, because at the time of the earthquake he was on the outskirts of Lisbon, in Belém. The sight of the destruction and the reports of thousands of dead people buried there made the king afraid to live in closed places.
D. José I was king of Portugal until 1777 and until the end of his days he lived in a complex of tents built in a place in Lisbon called Alto da Ajuda. This place was chosen because it was elevated and suffered little destruction and the tents built there became known as Real Barraca da Ajuda. This complex existed until the end of the 18th century, when a fire destroyed it.
In the video below you can see a reconstruction of what happened that same day, 265 years ago.
Son of Dona Maria II and D Fernando II, D. Pedro V had a careful moral and intellectual education, studying among other disciplines, natural sciences, philosophy, writing and languages. From an early age he showed remarkable intelligence: at the age of two he spoke German and French and at the age of twelve he mastered Greek and Latin, and he also knew English.
He traveled to several countries and tried to bring to Portugal the modernity and evolution he found in these trips, he was liberal and innovative but also charitable and concerned with his people. He inaugurated the first telegraph in Portugal and also the railroad between Lisbon and Carregado and was called “O rei Santo” the king saint because he refused to leave Lisbon during the cholera and yellow fever epidemics from 1853 to 1857 where he provided direct assistance to the victims and created the D. Pedro V asylum to welcome the orphans, giving them primary education and teaching them a trade.
D. Pedro V had no great matrimonial interests, refusing his first promised wife but finally accepting his second, Estefânia de Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen.
In April 1858, King D. Pedro V and Queen D. Estefânia were married by Proxy, but they only met a month later.
The wedding took place on May 18, 1858, at the church of São Domingos, in Lisbon. The entire city was ready to host the event.
In order to please his future wife, D. Pedro V ordered to make one of the most expensive jewels in the Portuguese Crown in his name and specifically for his wedding. A diadem with more than 4,000 diamonds and it is here, that according to the people, the misfortune of this love story begins.
At the time, diamonds should not be used by virgin women at the wedding and as if that was not an omen, the jewel was so heavy that it made an open wound on the Queen’s forehead. When they left their marriage with blood running down the people dictated their sentence: “Oh poor… she will die!
However, for D Pedro V, after meeting D. Estefânia, everything changed: the couple seemed in love, they walked hand in hand through the gardens of Sintra and Benfica.
But the queen needed to get pregnant. A year after the wedding, the queen felt bad and was hospitalized. At just 22 years of age, the queen died of diphtheria that was contracted at a railroad inauguration in Alentejo.
The husband stayed at the head of her bed, without sleeping, for two whole days. The doctors of the royal house performed an autopsy, but its result was not made public until 50 years later in an article by the famous doctor Ricardo Jorge: the queen died virgin!
On the day of the funeral, Estefânia took with her the precious jewel that on arrival at the place was exchanged for a crown of orange flowers … the jewel, worth 86,953,645 reis, was never seen again.
D. Pedro, sad with the loss of his great love, died on November 11, 1861, at the age of 24. He died of typhoid fever, which he contracted from drinking contaminated water during a hunt.
During the reign of D. João V, after the signing of a peace treaty between several European countries (1713), a policy of approximation between Portugal and Spain was followed.
A double marriage was then negotiated between the heirs of the two kingdoms: the Portuguese princess Maria Bárbara (daughter of D. João V) would marry the heir to the Spanish throne, prince Fernando; the future king D. José I would marry princess D. Mariana Vitória (daughter of D. Filipe V, 1st king of the Bourbon dynasty, in Spain).
It was also a way of seeking to guarantee peace between the two kingdoms.
The documents for this contract were signed in Lisbon and Madrid in 1727, and preparations for the wedding ceremony began, which became known as the “exchange of princesses”.
On January 10, 1723, were signed the capitulations of the princess’s marriage contract with Prince of Asturias D. Fernando, son of Felipe V, of Spain, the first of the Bourbons dynasty. At night there were fireworks in Terreiro do Paço, all the outbreaks in the Tagus were flagged and lit up with brilliance, and the illuminations throughout the city were equally brilliant. The following day the wedding took place in Lisbon, by proxy in the Patriarchal church.
The exchange of princesses should take place on neutral ground. For this reason, a bridge was built with a wooden palace over the river Caia, a river that marks the border between Portugal and Spain in the Elvas / Badajoz region. The palace, very well decorated, would welcome the royal families and the main guests.
The royal procession left Lisbon on 8 January, followed by the retinues of Queen D. Ana Ana Josefa and the patriarch, D. Tomás de Almeida.
D. João V arrived in Évora on the 10th, accompanied by D. José, and soon tried to order a “solemn and festive reception” for his wife, who was traveling with her daughter, Maria Bárbara de Bragança, and the infant D . Peter. Welcoming them were the city authorities, including the nobility and clergy, two battalions of infantry and two cavalry regiments, in addition to the people who came to the gates of the Lagoon, “from outside the walls”.
The ceremony for the exchange of the princesses, married to the heirs of two crowns, was carried out with the greatest pomp, making the trip with all the magnificence.
Princess D. Maria Bárbara’s trousseau was grand and dazzling. D. João V, to make the ceremony more striking, ordered the construction of the Vendas Novas palace, which still exists today, with the sole purpose of providing accommodation for two nights to the Portuguese and Spanish delegation .
In 1746 Filipe V died, and the Prince of Asturias ascended the throne with the name of Fernando VI, thus crowning Princess D. Maria Bárbara the crown of Spain’s queen.
Princess Maria Bárbara’s entourage consisted of several coaches ordered on purpose for the ceremony. There were still 185 carts and 6,000 soldiers.
Many people came to the banks of the river to watch, as far as possible, the public events of the ceremonies.
The weddings took place on January 19, 1729.
291 years ago.
After the military coup of 1926, a dictatorship was established in the country. In 1932, Antônio de Oliveira Salazar became the finance minister and dictator and established a regime inspired by Italian fascism.
It was a country where everything was censored and forbidden: primary teachers and nurses could not get married; the bikini was chased on the beaches; the ladies at Mass could not carry their bare arms; to use a lighter they needed a license; newspapers, books, films, plays, songs and music had to go through censorship, were cut and banned.
There was no freedom of expression, press, assembly, demonstration, strike, union, political parties and the right of association was very limited and controlled. There was no right to health, social protection, education or housing and, therefore, a large number of Portuguese people lived without running water, electricity or sewage.
The political police (PIDE) monitored, controlled and recorded the lives of citizens. Intercepted mail, telephones, kept in touch with contacts, travel, participation in leisure, cultural, sports and especially social and political activities. Since the fascists came to power on May 28, 1926, those who opposed and fought for freedom and democracy have suffered the greatest repression.
The state apparatus was adapted as a repressive instrument of the fascist regime.
The clandestine emigration was the escape, in the sixties, for more than one million Portuguese people looking for jobs and living conditions that they did not have in Portugal. In 1968 the dictator suffered a stroke, which resulted in his replacement by his minister Marcelo Caetano, who continued his policy. However, the economic decline that the country suffered, together with the erosion of 13 years of colonial war, caused discontent among the population and the armed forces, which resulted in the appearance of a movement against the dictatorship.
It is in this conjuncture that the military of the Armed Forces Movement (MFA), which had been organising and conspiring since 1973, carried out on April 25, 1974, a military coup that overthrows the regime, which falls without offering significant resistance and almost without shots and victims.
But why did this revolution remain in history as a carnation revolution?
Celeste Caeiro was a waitress at Franjinhas restaurant.
That day was the anniversary of the opening of the Franjinhas restaurant with an innovative self-service service, the first in Lisbon. A party where flowers could not be missing. When she arrived at work, Celeste found the door closed and was told by her boss that she would not open it because a revolution was underway. But let the flowers not be wasted.
She took the carnations with her to Rossio, where the military tanks awaited further orders from Salgueiro Maia. A soldier asked Celeste for a cigarette, but Celeste was not a smoker and all she had to give him was one of the carnations she had brought from the restaurant. The soldier accepted the flower and placed it in the barrel of the shotgun, a sign of a revolution without weapons, and soon his companions followed in his footsteps, leading Celeste to distribute all the carnations in her arms.
An unusual gesture, an image that went around the world and installed itself in the imagination of dreamers. Hours later, several florists were striving to ensure that no one was left without flowers, contributing to immortalise them as a symbol of freedom.