Although the earth-wave traversed the whole city, the shock was felt more severely in some quarters than in others. All the older part of the town, called the Moorish quarter, was entirely overthrown; and of the newer part, about seventy of the principal streets were ruined. Some buildings that withstood the shocks were destroyed by fire. The cathedral, eighteen parish churches, almost all the convents, the halls of the inquisition, the royal residence, and several other fine palaces of the nobility and mansions of the wealthy, the custom-houses, the warehouses filled with merchandise, the public granaries filled with corn, and large timber yards, with their stores of lumber, were either overthrown or burned.
The king and court were not in Lisbon at the time of this great disaster, but were living in the neighborhood at the castle of Belem, which escaped injury. The royal family, however, were so alarmed by the shocks, that they passed the following night in carriages out of doors. None of the officers of state were with them at the time. On the following morning the king hastened to the ruined city, to see what could be done toward restoring order, aiding the wounded, and providing food for the hungry.
The royal family and the members of the court exerted themselves to the uttermost, the ladies devoting themselves to the preparation of lint and bandages, and to nursing the wounded, the sick, and the dying, of whom the numbers were overwhelming. Among the sufferers were men of quality and once opulent citizens, who had been reduced in a moment to absolute penury. The kitchens of the royal palace, which fortunately remained standing, were used for the purpose of preparing food for the starving multitudes. It is said that during the first two or three days a pound of bread was worth an ounce of gold. One of the first measures of the government was to buy up all the corn that could be obtained in the neighborhood of Lisbon, and to sell it again at a moderate price, to those who could afford to buy, distributing it gratis to those who had nothing to pay.
For about a month afterward earthquake shocks continued, some of them severe. It was several months before any of the citizens could summon courage to begin rebuilding the city. But by degrees their confidence returned. The earth had relapsed into repose, and they set about the task of rebuilding with so much energy, that in ten years Lisbon again became one of the most beautiful capitals of Europe.
The most distinguishing peculiarities of this earthquake were the swallowing up of the mole, and the vast extent of the earth’s surface over which the shocks were felt. Several of the highest mountains in Portugal were violently shaken, and rent at their summits; huge masses falling from them into the neighboring valleys. These great fractures gave rise to immense volumes of dust, which at a distance were mistaken for smoke by those who beheld them. Flames were also said to have been observed: but if there were any such, they were probably electrical flashes produced by the sudden rupture of the rocks.