Mediaeval convent that was ruined in the great earthquake of 1755. Set overlooking the city the ruins provide a poignant reminder of the destruction wrought on Lisbon. The convent is also home to an archaeological museum with exhibits including a Peruvian mummy.
The ruined Convento do Carmo is situated in the Chiado district of Lisbon looking out over the city centre below. Visible from much of the downtown Baixa district of Lisbon the skeletal remains of this once great Gothic church are a lasting reminder of the events of that fateful day in 1755. Once the finest example of a Gothic church to be found in Lisbon the ruins of Carmo now serve as a poignant memorial with the pointed arches between the pillars rising up into the sky above.
It was All Saints Day and the church attached to the convent was packed with worshippers when the huge earthquake struck. The force of the quake brought the roof down killing many of the congregation inside. Elsewhere in Lisbon the death toll was measured in the tens of thousands and large fires broke out in the city. If things could get any worse they did; the riverside area was hit by a tsunami drowning many more. The Great Earthquake was felt throughout Western Europe and had a profound influence on Portugal's self-confidence as a nation.
The Convent was partially repaired but in the 1830s Portugal's monasteries (and convents) were all dissolved and the impetus to fully repair the Convento do Carmo was lost. Now the ruins effectively form a memorial to Lisbon's losses in the 1755 earthquake.
Part of the convent building was given over to the military. It was the last stronghold of the government forces controlled by the dictator Salazar's successor, Marcello Caetano, until the Carnation Revolution of 1974 which saw him overthrown. However, the former convent remains a post of the Republican National Guard (Guarda Nacional Republicana).
At the entrance to the church is an inscription announcing 40 days indulgence to faithful Christians visiting the church, as decreed by Pope Clement VII in the early 16th century. This was a 40 day reduction in the time to be spent in Purgatory before entering Heaven. Well, for those whose sins didn't warrant eternal Hell!
Clement VII was the pope responsible for excommunicating Henry VIII of England and the Indulgence granted to the Carmo church was perhaps a reward to the faithful of Catholic Portugal.
In 1864 the Carmo church building was donated to the Association of Portuguese Archaeologists who in turn converted one end of the ruins into a museum. This small archaeological museum occupies nave and apse of the Church and contains exhibits from the entire span of Portuguese history. It also contains a rather motley collection of artefacts from the New World such as a Peruvian mummy and shrunken heads.