Carmo Convent Ruins - Lisbon, Portugal
One of the deadliest earthquakes in history struck Lisbon on All-Saint’s day, November 1, 1755. The city was all but destroyed, and the ancient Carmo convent and church lay in ruins, its library of 5000 books destroyed.
Today the ruined arches stand in the middle of the rebuilt city as a reminder of the worst day in Lisbon’s history.
The magnitude 9 earthquake struck at about 9:30 am on the Saturday morning, tearing wide gashes in the earth. The tremor was followed by a series of devastating tsunamis and five days of raging fires which devoured the buildings left standing. It was one of the deadliest quakes in history, leaving an unknown total number dead (usually named as about 60,000 people though estimates range from 10,000 - 100,000), and 85% of the city in total ruins.
The earthquake inspired a frenzy of philosophical and religious soul searching, and some famous battles of wits. Voltaire, horrified by the tragedy and annoyed by religious accusations that Lisbon had been leveled in an act of divine retribution for the lewd lifestyles of its citizens, wrote his “Poem on the Disaster in Lisbon” in 1756. The poem reads, in part:
"What crime, what sin, had those young hearts conceived That lie, bleeding and torn, on mother’s breast? Did fallen Lisbon deeper drink of vice Than London, Paris, or sunlit Madrid?"
For more of Voltaire’s vitriol, keep reading the Carmo Convent Ruins on Atlas Obscura!
Q Confucius Number 2 - Shanghai, China
46-year-old Zhang Huan had already made waves across the international art world when he released Q Confucius Number 2 in 2011. Well-known for his works such as “Ash Jesus” and “Three Heads, Six Arms,” Huan took his work to a new level when he debuted an animatronic sculpture of Confucius in the bathtub that actually breathes.
Reaching the height of the cavernous room that holds it, Confucius Number 2 perfectly resembles the philosopher down to the long beard and age spots that are present on his face. The sculpture, made out of steel, silicone, carbon fiber, and acrylic, attempts to captures every detail of the human body. The work even has wrinkles and pores around its sculpted features.
Although it was only displayed until January 29, 2012 at the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai, Confucius will likely make the art rounds for some time before settling down in a permanent location.
Check in on the current whereabouts of Q Confucius Number 2 on Atlas Obscura…
Garden of Heroes and Villains - Dorsington, United Kingdom
Iconoclastic multi-millionaire Felix Dennis has amassed one of the largest and most personal collections of figurative sculpture in the world in his Garden of Heroes & Villains.
Dennis began his career creating and fighting for the radical counter-culture magazine Oz and became one of the preeminent periodical publishers in the world, rabble-rousing all the way. Famously uttering “cunt” on live television in 1970, and drunkenly claiming to have killed a man during a 2008 interview, Dennis’ more outrageous outbursts belie his work as a passionate artist and environmentalist. Dennis has planted over a million trees in his private Heart of England Forest, which he hopes to establish as a permanent wooded area that will one day be opened to the public when it is strong enough to survive their incursion. At the age of 52 Dennis began writing poetry which has received critical acclaim and garnered him the appellation, the “millionaire poet.” With such a rich life devoted to art and statement, it is no wonder that Dennis’ personal art garden is a wide-ranging collection of odes to his shaggy dog inspirations.
Browse more of the fantastic Garden of Heroes & Villains on Atlas Obscura!
Moon model at the Chicago Field Museum prepared by Johann Friedrich Julius Schmidt in Germany (1898).
Akeley, Carl (1864–1926), naturalist-taxidermist for the American Museum of Natural History, age 62, while collecting mammals in the eastern Congo, of dysentery.
We go to great lengths commemorating soldiers who have died fighting wars for their countries. Why not do the same for the naturalists who still sometimes give up everything in the effort to understand life? Neither would diminish the sacrifice of the other. In fact, many early naturalists were also soldiers, or, like Charles Darwin aboard HMS Beagle, were embedded with military expeditions.
With that in mind, I started to construct a very preliminary Naturalists’ Wall of the Dead, to at least assemble the names in one place, as I was researching my book The Species Seekers. If I have missed someone, or made other mistakes, please suggest changes in the comments. I am trying to focus on naturalists who died in the course of their work.
Photo of the Week: Roman Ruins of Dougga, Tunisia
Who needs a viewfinder when the ancient Romans built one for you? Atlas user Monica Petrus was able to use the remarkably preserved architecture in the ancient city of Dougga to perfectly frame this image of an even more complete structure. This composition was discovered by accident as she remembers it:
"As I broke away from the group like I always do, I found myself wandering silently through the ruins. I turned around and came upon a literally, perfectly framed shot."
Visit the Roman Ruins of Dougga, Tunisia on Atlas Obscura…
Another Whale Exploded: Some Thoughts
Read “Some Thoughts,” linked above. It gives a partial rundown of famous exploding whales of the not too distant past, touches on exploding caskets, and poses some really interesting ‘would you rather’-esque questions, only to conclude:
"As much as the internet loves a disgusting demonstration of how biology works, I’m sure as hell glad I wasn’t actually there.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Architecture of Obsession
Around the world, self-taught builders have been inspired by dreams and daydreams to decorate their homes and yards with elaborate sculptures and artwork. These spectacular art gardens are visions of a more magical world realized through obsession.
From Dr. Evermore’s Forevertron to the Watts Towers, Atlas Obscura has rounded up eight of the world’s most stunning outsider art gardens: The Architecture of Obsession: Eight Outsider Art Gardens…
Northern State Hospital Farm - Sedro-Woolley, Washington
Established in 1909, the Northern State Hospital for the Mentally Ill was a sprawling and remarkably self-sufficient facility with a number of production facilities including a 700-acre farm.
Alongside a lumber mill and quarrying operation, the farm enabled the hospital to support itself. The Northern State Hospital’s farm not only allowed the facility to be self-sufficient, but was even productive enough to help feed other hospitals in the state. The farm had every animal one would expect to see from cows to chickens, and also canning buildings to preserve their stores. In addition to providing food and crops for the facility, the farm also gave the patients a place where they could work and socialize. At its height, the dairy farm was the largest of its kind west of the Mississippi.
After the hospital closed in 1973, the farm and its grounds were given to the county to turn into a recreation area. While the hospital buildings are still in use, the farm grounds and their remaining buildings are a public park where visitors can explore the empty barns and milking houses. If decaying buildings aren’t exciting enough, the park also offers Frisbee golf.
Visit the Northern State Hospital Farm on Atlas Obscura…