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Lisbon Earthquake

At 9:40 AM on Saturday, November 1st 1755, All Saints Day, an 8.7 earthquake struck Lisbon.  The churches were full, hundreds of candles were lit. Lisbon is on a bed of limestone, it rocked, it rolled for minutes.  The churches, the city buildings collapsed. There were fires and an intense dust and smoke filled the air. Some ran to the river for some relief, there, a strange sight, the river bed empty.  A tsunami followed, a wave of over thirty seven feet. Over sixty thousand died that day and the city was in ruins.

What you see today in Lisbon is post 1755 construction.  With the opportunity to rebuild the city the best architects and planners were sought and they laid out a grid.  The buildings were made of granite to withstand another earthquake. Inside the buildings wooden frames were built. The idea being the granite would be solid and the wood within would be flexible, lives would be saved.

The earthquake delivered after shocks to the Church for over one hundred fifty years.  To say it was a dilemma for the Church would minimize and misrepresent the problem. Was it God’s will?  Of course it was God’s will. The Church postulated it was a punishment for man’s sins. But, what God would oversee and direct such destruction of the churches and death of his worshipers?  This question was debated within the church for almost two hundred years. When Voltaire in “Candide” proposed the earthquake was a “natural” disaster he was criticized and called a nonbeliever.

Below is a link to the Lisbon Slideshow