Great Earthquake of Lisbon: Illustrated view map, 1755
This is an early representation based on a combination of eyewitness descriptions and a vivid imagination of the artist of the devastation caused to the city by the “Great Lisbon Earthquake” of 1755. Scientists today believe the quake registered about 9.0 on the Richter scale. With the fire and tsunami that followed in its wake, it was one of the most destructive quakes in history, with the death toll in the city alone estimated at between 10,000 and 100,000 souls in a city of 200,000 people. 85% of Lisbon’s buildings were destroyed, all 70,000 volumes of the royal library, countless artworks, and the royal archives (including all records of the voyages of Vasco da Gama). To prevent disorder in the ruined city, gallows were erected at high points around the city to deter looters. At least 35 people were publicly executed. The earthquake had struck on an important church holiday and destroyed almost every important church in the city, yet the red light district was only lightly damaged, creating an existential crisis in this Roman Catholic city. More than just an unimaginable earthquake, tsunamis with wave heights of up to 65 feet (20m) swept across North Africa, destroying everything in their paths.