The great Lisbon earthquake


The Lisbon earthquake struck on November 1st (All Saints Day), 1755, and was one of the deadliest earthquakes in history. The subsequent fires and tsunami almost entirely destroyed the city and much of the surrounding area.  The horror and tragedy of the event provoked Voltaire to write his ‘Poem on the Lisbon disaster’, a blistering attack upon those philosophers and theologians who argued that everything that happened in the world was ordained by God and, therefore, was just and good.  Voltaire asks: ‘What crime, what fault had the young committed / Who lie bleeding at their mother’s breast?’.

Below is an eye-witness account of the disaster by the reverend Charles Davy along with an English translation of Voltaire’s poem.

‘The Earthquake at Lisbon’ – here

‘Poem on the Lisbon disaster’ – here



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