Direct Effects of 1755 Earthquake

1755 Earthquake, Direct Effects, “The Earthquake in Lisbon” Oil on Canvas. Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon, 1760.

At 9:30 AM on November 1st, 1755 – All Saints Day – large parts of the country’s population were attending mass when a massive earthquake struck. Church roofs collapsed because they were not constructed to withstand strong seismic forces. Three tsunamis followed the earthquake beginning about an hour after ground movements. After the tsunamis, the areas that were not completely damaged by the earthquake or the tsunamis caught on fire and continued to burn for the next five days. The fires were started by candles that were burning in the churches, ultimately destroying the Lisbon everyone knew before the catastrophe.

Cultural and social effects after the earthquake resulted in many questioning their faith. The tragedy happened on a very important day to the Catholics called “All Saints Day” and many were in Mass when the earthquake struck. There were many who questioned why the Lord would have such a disastrous event happen on such a large occasion for worship. One of the most important short-term impacts of the 1755 earthquake concerned the dramatic changes in prices, both at the national and regional level. In general, the changes in prices were only transitory, but remained for some time. This is especially true for some of the main staples, like wheat, in the most affected regions such as Lisbon. The price of wheat increased by 20 percent and stayed that way for a little over a year after the tragic event. The earthquake also had a significant effect on wages, increasing the common wage to construction workers. The demand came from a lack of trained individuals as a result of the decrease in population from the catastrophe. Wages returned to pre-earthquake data about 10 years after the earthquake struck.