The Algarve and The Great Earthquake 1755

Despite having been left posterity with the name of the Portuguese capital, the 1755 earthquake caused devastation equivalent if not superior in the Algarve, which also produces extensive damage in North Africa and, to a lesser extent in south-western Spain.
The distribution of the damage in the Portuguese territory was exceptionally well documented at the time, because Carvalho e Melo decided to send a questionnaire to all parish priests, with mandatory response on pain of sanctions, requesting precise descriptions of what happened in each parish. There is no known which of the employees of the Marquis drafted the text of the survey, otherwise your name would have merited mention in the history of early scientific seismology. Just pick up the trail of its distribution to parish priests in a text distributed in the diocese of Coimbra, and signed by the respective bishop, Count of Arganil: “We know that His Majesty is served that Your mercy distinctly answer the following interrogation, and to send us your answer to us we put in His Real Presence, which Thy mercy will within the space of a month, taking advantage of this time to check the doubtful points with smart people and experts, who report to Your mercy the light needed for hit “(in:” Lisbon in 1758, Parish Memories of Lisbon “F. Portugal and A. Matos, Ed Cultural Publications of the Municipality of Lisbon, Lisbon, 1974, p.26.).

A substantial part of the responses to the Survey of the Marquis of Pombal as it became known, have been discovered in xx sec. But they have yet to find the answers to some key regions such as the Algarve.

As regards the data collected from the Algarve assumed particular importance another survey sent to parish priests in 1758, the priest Luís Cardoso, who worked in a Geographical Dictionary, and which included the following question: “If (the parish) suffered any ruin in the 1755 earthquake, and on what; and it is already fixed. ”

It is in the Algarve, and especially in the Western, that the damage caused by the earthquake that reach a higher level, suggesting the proximity of the epicentral region.

Unfortunately not know the answers to the Survey of the Marquis of Pombal, for the Algarve, so the information available result in much of the Parish Memories compiled in 1758 by Luis Cardoso priest, or missives loose. A letter in Lagoa, on 3 November, states that “in Lagos only stood a house castle, which is the Palace of residence governors and generals captains of this kingdom,” while “in New Portimão Vila fell the sumptuous college building of the Society of Jesus Fathers, and all of the churches, except that of the Holy Body. ”

SILVES. In Silves, according to the same report, “he lost the Cathedral, Tower, Castle and walls, Town Hall and the Audience, chain a religious convent … and entire streets were ruined, losing them infinite people.” In many villages the damage are described as total. Boliqueime was rebuilt elsewhere, so the houses were reduced to rubble.

BISHOP’S VILLAGE. Also in Vila do Bispo “every house came down.”
In a letter written by the Bishop of the Algarve to Father Manuel Portal can be read that “completely ruined this town of Faro, the Lagos, Silves, Loulé village, the Albufeira, the Bishop, Vila Nova de Portimão Boliqueime; but especially Lagos and Albufeira, which came as the sea with hellish fury took what was left of the ruins of the earthquake, but yet I do not think dead numbered about twelve hundred to a thousand and three hundred. ” All the settlements mentioned in the letter are located to the west of Faro, the western Algarve.

FARO. Faro was the extensive list of important buildings that suffered collapse, as the Cathedral, the Episcopal Palace, and the main churches and convents. But in the eastern Algarve sector, or Sotavento, they are already variables reported degrees of destruction.

OLHÃO. Olhão “suffered little ruin,” and São Lourenço of Almancil is reported to us that “only five tiles … fell from the top of the dome” of the church. Further east, however, the damage will have been very important, especially in Tavira and Castro Marim. In the coastal towns of the Algarve, a significant part of the damage appears to have been caused by the tsunami – or tsunami (tidal wave in Japanese) – that as a result of the earthquake, hit the coast about 15 minutes after the seismic waves.

The 1755 Tsunami in the Algarve

The HISTORIAN Damião de Faria e Castro, who was in Faro to the earthquake date, talk follows the tidal wave, or tsunami, “In the Peru earthquake (in 1746) … caused considerable admiration the major setback that made the sea. He left discovered off the ground at its bottom, which then has to be filled by one mole of water accustomed … In our coast has seen the first effect of it back; but soon to return so impetuous that exceeding their limits in some parts mounted high rocks ninety fathoms in other went beyond the long spaces for inland beaches. So I discussed that I, as the earthquake would open large hollows in the vast seabed, filling these large copy of its waters, this decrease would like them back. That after making a close and to go up joining the same cavities, they spit the water itself reconcentrated with such momentum that, while it lasted them, made them run out of the common goals of its floods. That alternating times in which he progressed in his career that would be the extent to which the mouths were closed, and spitting the water. ”

The historian’s intuition captured in a remarkable way the essence of the generation of the tsunami caused by the deformation of the ocean floor in the vicinity of the epicentral region, which disturb the overlying water column. The conceptual model of sismogénica rupture of a fault – the elastic rebound or elastic rebound – which would pave the way to a more rigorous understanding of the genesis of the tsunami would only be developed at the beginning of sec. XX, which makes this surprisingly advanced explanation Faria and Castro.

THIS REPORT give us account of the tsunami’s effects on the Algarve …

ALBUFEIRA. A large part of unsuspecting residents of the village of Albufeira, which is situated on a prominent rock came down to find asylum on the beach, which was to secure. It came the sea and swallowed them all.

PORTIMAO. In Portimão Village, on the ruins she felt pitiful, it was horrendous fighting the waves. Its bar forms a big mouth moored between two high rocks, which are opposite each other strongholds of Santa Catarina and São João. For she went tight formidable waves on, they ran up the river more than a league. They hit the walls of the Barbican, and all who encountered them without embankment was slaying the parapets, to leave the shallow …

LAGOS. Lagos was another particular object of the wrath of the sea, and earthquake. Almost all the temples and houses were flattened with great loss of life and leather.

ALVOR. The sea that ran the beach of Alvor everything was downing. Led fishermen who pulled by the networks. Buildings that did not leave traces of the places where they were. He attacked the strong call of Meia Praia, and drew in half, getting cut the bulwark that addresses the west. Here was give strong repelões in Lagos thick fortification wall. All that hit wiped out. ”
(Text adapted from the original “The 1755 Lisbon earthquake,” John Duarte Fonseca, ed. Argumentum, Lisbon, 2004)

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