Monday, February 04, 2013

Ruins of Carmo

On November 1, 1755, Lisbon experienced one the the strongest earthquakes ever recorded.  It measured  somewhere between 8.6 and 9.0 on the Richter scale and was felt as far away as Finland.  You can read an eyewitness account here.  As you can imagine, an earthquake of that magnitude in a city of steep hills, all crowded with buildings, was devastating.  The quake was followed by a tsunami that swamped the parts of the city along the river.  November 1st is a holy day and mass was being held in many of the churches when the quake struck.  The churches collapsed on the people and the candles smoldered, eventually becoming a huge fire that raged out of control for six days.

One of the ruined churches, the Igreja do Carmo, was preserved in its ruined state and is now a remarkable archeological museum.  Built in the 14th century, the original plan was to restore the church, but then ruins became romantic and fashionable and the church was left as it was.

Let's take a look.

Here's how it looks from the street.  Not very exciting, actually.

But you enter the old church and are confronted with this.

The vault collapsed, but the arches remain.

I could not get enough pictures of this fascinating place.

Warped quatrefoil window.

A graceful ship

Ian strolls the nave.

Earthquake damage, I presume.

At the back of the church, in the old sacristy, there's still a roof, and in this space is the archeological museum with objects--arrowheads, idols--from the area's prehistoric society.  No photography was allowed in here, which is too bad, because the vaults, with their inner layer of old bricks exposed, gave a unique view of how medieval churches were constructed.  It was a little like being inside a David Macaulay book.

Outside the church.

Looking down on the street below the church.

Castelo de Sao Jorge, seen from outside the church.


  1. I find these sorts of explorations to be utterly fascinating.

    (Says the person who has already read several news accounts this morning of the identification of Richard III's remains.)

  2. Reminds me of the ruins in England--there's something particularly splendid about those old buildings.

  3. I adore old ruins. To wander around real goth ones would be a dream day for me.

  4. You have convinced me that I need to see Lisbon.