This grey roofless edifice is all that remains of the once magnificent Gothic-style Carmo Church, which ponders silently from its privileged vantage point overlooking Rossio Square and the rest of Lisbon‘s downtown Baixa district.
The nave of the church, cracked open like an eggshell, is a striking reminder of the events of that All Saints’ Day of 1755 when the great earthquake shook, swayed and all but destroyed the Portuguese capital.
And had the Richter Scale been invented in those days, the earthquake would have registered a massive 8.9, with the first of the three major shocks happening at 9.40am when the church’s candlelit congregation was full to the rafters.
The terrifying tremor lasted between 6 and 7 minutes, with the most conservative estimates suggesting that around 40,000 people perished in the quake, which was so fierce it disturbed the lochs of Scotland and the fjörds of Norway.
Carmo Church or Convent (it is often referred to as the Convento do Carmo) was founded in the last quarter of the 14th-century by Nuno Álvares Pereira, the great military leader who defeated Juan, King of Castile, in the decisive Battle of Aljubarrota. He later became a monk and died at the church in 1431.
Today it houses a fascinating archaeological museum with a fine collection of prehistoric remains, medieval tombs, early coins and rare pottery.