ARCHITECT, Portuguese
(active after 1755 in Lisbon)

General view

Lower City, Lisbon

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake, also known as the Great Lisbon earthquake, occurred in the Kingdom of Portugal on Saturday, 1 November, the holy day of All Saints' Day. In combination with subsequent fires and a tsunami, the earthquake almost totally destroyed Lisbon and adjoining areas. Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, Marques de Pombal (1699-1782), the minister of king Joseph I, took control of the situation after the catastrophe. He established a new layout for the inner city, the Cidade Baixa, which had previously been dominated by the royal palace on the banks of the Enjoy, and which was surrounded by narrow, winding streets. He had the area between the river and the chain of hills beyond built as a modern planned city; broad north-south axes were regularly intersected at right angles by smaller crossroads, and two great squares, The Praça do Comércio in the south and the Rossio in the north, defined the limits of the Baixa.

Despite the calamity, Lisbon suffered no epidemics and, within less than a year, was already partially rebuilt. The new central area of Lisbon was designed by a group of architects specifically to resist subsequent earthquakes, employing a new construction method, "caging", which consisted of a wooden framework erected in the early stages of construction, granting the building a better chance of withstanding an earthquake due to the inherent flexibility of the material. Architectural models were built for tests, with the effects of an earthquake being simulated by marching troops around the models. The buildings and major squares of the Pombaline Downtown of Lisbon are one of its main attractions: they are the world's first earthquake-resistant buildings. Pombal made also an important contribution to the study of seismology, by designing a survey that was sent to every parish in the country.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.