Have you noticed a big stone construction with arches that stands out in Lisbon’s landscape? It’s huge! It’s tremendous! It’s the Águas Livres aqueduct, a remarkable engineer work with more than 200 years old.
When the big earthquake in Lisbon happened back in 1755, the building that stood out proudly among the poor landscape in ruins, was the Águas Livres aqueduct. It was so astonishing that it was even praised by the foreigner visitors, who witnessed the city’s destruction and who were describing the event to international newspapers.
This engineering masterpiece started to be built in 1731 in a time when it was urgent for the city to have water. There were 200 thousand people living in Lisbon and 44 thousand houses. The water came from few fountains available and was sold by the water carriers. The more steps they had to climb to bring you water, the more you would have to pay.
King João V thought it was about time to build an aqueduct to improve the water supply in the city. But it would have to be an aqueduct to satisfy João V’s taste for big things. Being small was not in his plan. Thanks to the royal taxes on wine and meat, it was gathered enough money to finally build it. The water supply conditions improved in 1746 even though the aqueduct hadn’t been complete yet. It was only finished in 1799 and at that time the water supply tripled. From then on the aqueduct could supply fountains spread all over the city and even noble houses and industries. It was with no doubt innovative, well planned and resistant to any natural catastrophe as the big earthquake. The aqueduct stopped working in 1967, but it has been a national monument since 1910 and it is even possible to visit it! In 2018 we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the local water company EPAL. If you are looking for things to do in Lisbon you can visit this monument for free at weekends until the end of the year. For more information check here.
Some facts about the aqueduct:
- It starts in Belas (Sintra) and ends in Lisbon in a total of 58 kms of length;
- The magnificent archery in Alcântara valley is 941 metres long, has 35 arches, having its biggest stone arch in the world with 65,29 metres high and 28,86 metres wide.
- It transported the water from 58 headsprings on 127 arches
- It witnessed many things in its long life including the legendary and dark story of the real serial killer in 19th century Lisbon. His name was Diogo Alves and he threw his victims from the top of the aqueduct after robbing them…
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