13. The Earthquake That Devastated Lisbon on All Saints Day
In the eighteenth century, Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, was one of Europe’s wealthiest cities and busiest seaports. On the morning of November 1st, 1755, just as it began celebrating the religious festival of All Saints’ Day, Lisbon was almost completely demolished by a powerful magnitude 9.0 earthquake, whose shocks were felt as far away as Finland, North Africa, and the Caribbean.
Striking around 9:40 AM, the upheaval opened fissures nearly 20 feet deep in the city’s streets. Because of the religious festival, a significant percentage of the population were gathered in churches and cathedrals when the tremors began, and thousands were crushed to death as the houses of worship collapsed atop them. As the tremors subsided, another danger arose as fires erupted around the city, first individually, then joining together to transform Lisbon into a giant inferno. Then things got worse.