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The capital of Portugal has a rich history spanning more than twenty centuries; it is something a rare city can boast of. Lisbon lies on the western bank of the Tagus River, just near the place where the river flows into the Atlantic Ocean creating a deep natural harbour. It is an attractive lot that Romans, Visigoths, warriors of Arab caliphate, French soldiers led by Napoleon Bonaparte and other great armies were fighting for. The period of peacetime began only after the Second World War.
One more important fact about the location of the city is its position regarding the areas of seismic activity. It is the place where the Eurasian and African tectonic plates approach to each other, consequently resulting in earthquakes. And that was in Lisbon, where one of the most destructive natural disasters in the history of mankind occurred. The earthquake with a magnitude 9 occurred on 1 November 1755 killing about one-quarter of the Lisbon’s population (100 000 people in 6 minutes). Subsequent fires and tsunami almost completely destroyed the city. Anyway, the fact that this earthquake caused the birth of modern seismology can be a poor consolation.
Vasco da Gama Bridge, the longest in Europe
At that time Portugal was a rather wealthy colonial state, so the major part of the capital was rebuilt in a very short period of time – several months. As a result, Lisbon became a unique European capital having no random town planning: the whole historical centre of the city was built according to a common plan.
New quarters of the city, having begun their life from scratch, were the first ones to be seismically tested. According to the evidence of that time, a great number of soldiers were attracted to take part in these tests: they were to march in unison around the model of a building creating a sort of seismic activity.
However, the influence and economy of Portugal quickly fell into decay and the reconstruction of the city ceased. The witnesses of the beginning of the 19th century could describe dilapidated buildings all around the city.
Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower
One can wonder that several monuments of the past built in the Manueline style (Portuguese Renaissance) had survived the earthquake. One of them is Belém Tower built-in 1515-1521 to celebrate the Portuguese discovering of the sea route to India. The other one is the Jerónimos Monastery where the tombs of the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama and other important historians are situated. Both of the monuments are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Castle of São Jorge
The most ancient building of Lisbon is the Castle of São Jorge (Castelo de São Jorge), but nevertheless, one can behold it in its restored form. The first fortified construction was built on a hill in around 48 BC, and then it was repeatedly enlarged and strengthened. But the 1755 earthquake had ruined a great part of the building. During the subsequent centuries, the castle had been significantly reconstructed and in 1910 it was declared the monument of national importance.
Águas Livres Aqueduct
The Águas Livres Aqueduct is the most famous technical construction of Lisbon and the architectural landmark of the city. The chain of stone arches built at the beginning of the 18th century was a solution to the problem of pure water supply, and it works for the same purpose even nowadays. And it is one more construction which has survived the natural disaster of the year 1755.
Majestic castles and cathedrals which appeared after the earthquake (the Estrela Basilica that can be noticed almost from any point in the city, the Mafra National Palace which is the biggest palace in Portugal and other monuments) make Lisbon one of the most picturesque cities of Europe. You will have no doubt as soon as you take a virtual walk around there with the help of our panoramas.