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The Aqueduct of Free Waters

April 21, 2019

The Águas Livres Aqueduct, translating as The Aqueduct of Free Waters, is an incredible mark upon the landscape. From whichever side you encounter this striking piece of architecture you cannot help but be impressed by its enormity. Given the height of this great structure it is a testament to the engineers that it managed to survive the earthquake of 1755! 

At the time, long suffering from water shortages, the city required a permanent solution. King John V decided to build an aqueduct that would bring water from the parish of Canecas, located in the modern municipality of Odievelas. The aqueduct was constructed over 68 years, from 1731 to 1799, to give the people of Lisbon access to clean drinking water.

Aguas Livres Aqueduct is a prime example of Portugal’s 18th-century engineering. With over 109 arches, it covers a distance of 18 kms, but the whole network of canals covers 58 kms. Out of 109 arches, the tallest arch is magnificently tall, standing at 65 m. This arch is located in Campolide, and it is a spectacular sight to witness.

The construction started in 1731 and the work was entrusted to Italian architect, Antonio Canevari. In 1748, the unfinished canal was opened, and a ceremonial arch was built in the Amoreiras neighborhood to celebrate the fact.

An interesting fact that I picked up that most Portuguese do not know is that this place was the grisly scene of many a murder and the site where one of Portugal’s few serial killers used to hang out. Diogo Alves became known as the “The Aqueduct Murderer” and his particular M.O was to lie in wait of farmers and passers by returning along the aqueduct from town. He would spring from ambush, murder and rob his victims before throwing them over the aqueduct to give the impression of suicide for cause of death.

He got away with this for quite some time until he was eventually caught and hung for his crimes. But the story does not end there. Scientists were intrigued by Alves brain and the mind of serial killer presented a rare opportunity for scientific research. Alves head was promptly removed from his body and placed in a jar of formaldehyde for safe-keeping. His head is currently being stored at the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Medicine.  

The Mae d’Agua or the Mother of the Water reservoir of the Amoreiras, built in 1834, is now a deactivated reservoir. However, tourists can be visit a part of Museu da Agua or Water Museum. One of the best places to view the aqueduct is from Praça das Amoreiras, located next to the Water Museum.

You can also walk down it still at certain times but be careful, they say the spirit of Alves haunts the Aqueduct looking for his missing head. But don’t let an old wives tale spoil your visit to this famed Lisbon attraction!

Lisbon Squares or Praças:

Some of the best places in Lisbon are the peaceful and greenery-filled Praças or town squares. They are perfect for an evening stroll or picnics with family and friends. Some of the famous Praças that Lisbon has to offer are as follows.

  • Praça da Alegria consists of swooping palm and banyan trees. There is bronze bust of 19th century Portuguese painter and composer Alfredo Keil.
  • Praça do Príncipe Real has a century-old cedar tree that forms a giant umbrella in the centre of park. There is a kids’ playground and a cafe inside.
  • Praça das Flores has a fountain in the centre with cobbled pathways and pastel hued houses around it.
  • Praça do Comércio is located in the city of Lisbon, Portugal. Situated near the Tagus river, the square is still commonly known as Terreiro do Paço.

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