Thursday, January 5, 2023

George Cannon in Lisbon

In a prior post I discussed George Cannon's first voyage on a ship involved in the slave trade, the ship Eliza, which left Liverpool on March 22, 1790. It stopped in Lisbon, then continued on to the Gold Coast of Africa where it traded at Anomabu and Cape Coast Castle, then delivered slaves to Falmouth, Jamaica on April 30, 1792. We recently visited Lisbon, Portugal and I thought about my third great grandfather while we were there, why did he stop there, what was it like then, what did he see?

It is highly likely that the Eliza stopped in Lisbon for items to use in trade in Africa or for provisions for the voyage. Lisbon was an important center for salt. The Setubal deposit just south of Lisbon was the best in Europe. But it could have been for fruit or vegetables or other provisions. For the purpose of this post, the main idea is that he stopped in Lisbon and what might he have seen that would be familiar to us now? 

The Belem Tower is a bastion and four storey, 100 foot tall, tower built on a rock outcrop a short distance from the bank of the Tagus River near where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The tower was started in 1516 and completed in 1519, using local beige/white limestone. It was a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon and an embarkation and disembarkation point for Portuguese explorers. 
George Cannon would have seen this tower as he entered the Tagus River Estuary from the other (river) side. 
On November 1, 1755 the largest earthquake to ever impact Europe or North Africa, an estimated 8.5 to 9.0 on the Richter Scale, had an epicenter about 180 to 240 miles southwest of Lisbon. It lasted an estimated 3.5 to 6 minutes and opened up fissures 16 feet wide in downtown Lisbon. 40 minutes after the earthquake a tsunami with 20 foot waves hit the harbor and downtown Lisbon. Candles in homes and churches, lit for All Saints Day, were knocked over and started fires that developed into a firestorm, asphyxiating people up to 98 feet away from the blaze.  It is estimated that 30,000 to 40,000 of Lisbon's population of 200,000 at the time were killed. 

The Praca de Comerico or Commerce Plaza is a plaza facing the harbor in downtown Lisbon that was completely remodeled after the earthquake. The bronze statue of King Jose 1 was installed in the center of the plaza in 1775 and would have been seen by George Cannon. The triumphal arch behind it was not completed, however, until 1873. 
The statue of King Jose 1 in the Commerce Plaza.

Judy stands at the edge of the Tagus River where the harbor was, not too far from the statue. 

Looking to the west is the Tagus River entrance near the Atlantic Ocean. The Belem Tower is that direction on the same side of the river. 

St. George's Castle (Castelo de Sao Jorge) is on a hill above the east side of Commerce Plaza surrounded by walls.  

This is a view of the Tagus River from the castle walls. Commerce Plaza is the open square to the mid-left of the photo. 

1 comment:

  1. Interesting to try to view the city through a 1790s lense. It's pretty amazing that as many things were there then that are still there now.