It began at 9.30 am. You wrote the 1. November 1755, all saints day in Lisbon. The streets were empty of people. The town residents had gathered in the churches to commemorate the dead. Suddenly, the earth shook, and the vaults of over 100 houses of worship, broke and buried the faithful among themselves. Those who survived seriously injured, choked on the gigantic cloud of dust that rose above the rubble, and the sky darkened. The burning candles in the churches and the open fires in the houses sparked devastating fires. Who could save to the banks of the Tagus, was ripped out of twenty-Meter-high waves in the death. The Tsunami flooded the coasts of North Africa, and the aftershocks brought as far as Luxembourg is a military barracks to collapse. In the rubble of Lisbon, marauding gangs, stole, and murdered.
After the century of disaster, all fought for the sovereignty of interpretation. Protestant clergy had the misfortune to be a punishment of the Catholic Portuguese, because they had the wrong religion and because, of all things, on this day the Inquisition days. Catholics detected, in turn, a God’s punishment for the decadent life in what was then the richest city in Europe. This interpretation of the trial but was shaken when the people heard that the red light district that had survived the disaster unscathed. Why had left God prostitute alive? Everyone had an opinion, and since opinions cost nothing, there were many of them.
The earthquake marked the beginning of the earthquake research and influenced the urban design: The houses were fire-walls, the roads were wider. But the most sustainable earthquake took place in the minds of the Europeans. The people asked irritated, why an omnipotent and benevolent God had allowed a lot of suffering. These public debates have paved the ground for enlightenment, science and reason.
The Scottish philosopher David Hume wrote: “is there to prevent the God of Evil, can it? Then he is impotent. He can do it, don’t want to do it? Then he is malicious.”
Claude Cueni (63) is a writer and lives in Basel. He writes every second Friday of the VIEWS.