Águas Livres Aqueduct, in Lisbon

Video about the Águas Livres Aqueduct
aqueduct aguas free

The Águas Livres Aqueduct (meaning "Aqueduct of the Free Waters") is a famous aqueduct in Lisbon. It is an incredible example of 18th-century Portuguese engineering. It has one main part that is 18 km long, as well as a network of attached canals that are approximately 58 km in length. It was build under the orders of King John V (D. João V) beginning in 1731 in response to the perpetual lack of drinking water then existing within Lisbon.

Construction on the aqueduct began under the supervision of Italian architect, but he was replaced by Manuel da Maia, a Portuguese architect, in 1732. The idea behind the aqueduct was to bring water to Lisbon using the supply in the parish of Belas. Sales taxes on olive oil, beef, and wine paid for the aqueduct's construction.

Custodio Vieira took over supervision of the aqueduct construction in 1736, and it was he who devised the aqueduct's famous and grand centerpiece, the Alcantara Valley Arches. These were completed in 1744 and comprise not one, but 35 arches all across the valley. The arches vary in height and style, with some being round and some pointed, and the tallest one rising to 65 meters. The arches are Gothic in appearance and considered a brilliant work of Baroque architecture.

The Aguas Livres Aqueduct began bringing water to Lisbon in 1748, though the project was still not finished. However, the start of production was celebrated with the building of a commemorative arch in the Amoreiras region of the city. The aqueduct was not officially completed until 1834, and went through several other changes of supervisors during that time. Once completed, there was no doubt the aqueduct was well-made. An earthquake in 1755 that caused at least some damage to most buildings in Lisbon didn't hurt the aqueduct at all. It continued providing Lisbon with water until 1973.

Though no longer in operation, the aqueduct is still around. It is a marvel of the architecture of the time in which it was built and is a national treasure of Portugal. It is managed by the Museu da Aqua, which gives tours of the structure. The famous Alcantera Valley Arches can be seen any time by walking to the Calçada da Quintinha or the Campolide train station. These places provide a clear view of nearly the entire span of this 18th century marvel.


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