At 9:45 a.m. on November first, 1755, the waters in the Rio Tejo emptied into the Atlantic Ocean, dropping the depth as much as six feet. The first tremor had toppled buildings and sent throngs of people into the streets and down to the docks seeking safety. There, the astonished crowds looked down at the muddy bottom of the river. Interspersed with millions of flopping fish, were shipwrecks, treasures, trash, and bones - all the evidence of 2,500 years of human occupation – revealing themselves in a slimy gore, a view never before afforded to the residents of the ancient city of Lisbon.
Twenty minutes later, a wall of water rushed across the exposed bar and filled the river back up again, taking all the ships and half the city along with it.
In Salamanca, only 240 miles to the northeast of Lisbon, the New Cathedral was badly damaged from the massive quakes that shook all of Europe. The Late Gothic church had only recently been completed after over 200 years of patient work. Now, the beautiful stained-glass windows were shattered, statues had fallen hundreds of feet from their perches, cracks appeared in walls, and the large tower was leaning.
Slowly, bit by bit, over the next 237 years, the cathedral would be restored. Each successive mason, sculptor and stonecutter would add his loving hands to the project in his own unique way. One artist in particular though, signed his work with a mark that sent tremors reverberating around the world all over again.
Tourists stopping at the west entrance of the cathedral, the “Door of Branches,” were the first to spot it. Rumors flew as fast as the internet could carry them. It was only later revealed that the astronaut was a contemporary addition and not evidence of alien contact.