Carmo Convent

Largo do Carmo, 1200-092 Lisboa, Portugal

In 1755, Lisbon was all but devoured by an earthquake so strong that it still ranks as one of the most destructive in recorded history. One of the few structures to survive somewhat intact was the Carmo Convent—an impressive feat, considering it was built in the 14th century. Today, you can still tour its beautiful skeleton, complete with soaring archways that cut a majestic path across the sky. Also worth visiting is the open courtyard, which houses spillover ruins from the attached archaeological museum.

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In 1755 on November 1st, the King and his family were at the 9:00 mass at the Carmo Cathedral with hundreds of residents of Lisbon. It was a holy day. Within minutes the ground began to shake and a devastating earthquake totally destroyed this ancient capital city. Then a tsunami swept the area and fires began. The fires lasted for three days. Thousands of Lisboans perished in the quake. While visiting Portugal my husband and I explored the remains of this Carmo church in the Bairro Alto district of Lisbon. It was difficult to imagine the demise of so many people as boulders and glass rained down on them. These ruins are now a museum that has been left as it was after the hurricane clean-up. I tried to picture this majestic 14th century Cathedral as it was before this catastrophe. We took the Santa Justa Elevador to ascend to the Bairro Alto district. The view of this cosmopolitan city from the top should not be missed We used our Lisboa Card for a 20% discount of the entry price at the Carmo and a free ride on the elevator. You can purchase a card at any Information Center. We went to the center at the bottom of the Avenida Liberdade. (The card provides free rides on Metros, buses, trolleys, and elevators, and discounts at many museums). After the museum, we had lunch at the Cervejaria de Trinidade, a 17th century monastery’s brewery that is convenient to the Museum. We had delicious Portuguese fare. We thoroughly enjoyed this experience. What a great day!

Ruins Reinvisioned

It was earthquake of 1755 took that took out the roof of the Carmo Convent, not to mention almost completely demolishing the city. Sadly, most residents across the city were actually attending church when the quake struck. The convent still stands preserved, as a reminder to visitors and Lisboners alike of the destruction that was incurred. That said, the space is much more than a monument: converted into a museum and sometimes concert venue, its the perfect place to enjoy a classical music concert, so be sure to see what’s on when you visit.

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