The earthquake that destroyed Lisbon started around 9:30 a.m. on November 1, 1755. The earth shook violently. Thousands of buildings collapsed mainly in the downtown area and on the hillside to the Chiado. The Palácio Real da Ribeira, the Teatro da Ópera, convents, palaces, schools, hospitals, … Everything collapsed.
In the Tagus, giant waves crashed the boats against the coast and invaded the streets of the downtown area. A fire started in the Restauradores area and, North winds shifted it towards the river. A large part of Lisbon was reduced to ashes. Thousands of people died in a climate of fear.
Sebastião Melo* – was the State Secretary of the Portuguese Crown, at the time the key figure of the Portuguese Government. He immediately took security measures and ordered the cleaning of the city. Then he ordered the design of a new Lisbon, a city of his time, geometrical with identical buildings with new and stable structures.
The square adopted in the reconstruction plans made it possible to design Terreiro do Paço, a majestic square open onto the Tagus estuary. In order to maintain the maritime tradition, a pier that had disappeared after the earthquake was restored, giving rise to the Cais das Colunas, which offers a beautiful panoramic view of the river and the south bank.
Today this square hosts major events all year round. One of the most impressive is the fireworks display put on by the Lisbon City Council on New Year’s Eve.
Commerce Square is classified as a National Monument.
* It was later named after the Marquis of Pombal.