High above the valley of Alcântara, the 14 Gothic pointed arches of the Aqueduto das Águas Livre are visible from afar. King John V commissioned the construction in the 18th century in order to cope with the chronic water shortage in the city. From 1744, the “Aqueduct of Free Waters” supplied the city’s inhabitants with fresh drinking water. Over a length of almost 19 kilometres, it connected the city of Queluz with the Lisbon district of Campolide both above and below ground. There the water flowed into a reservoir that could hold an impressive 5,500 cubic metres of water. The reservoir Mãe d’Àgua, translated into German as “Mother of Water”, can still be admired today as part of a visit to the museum. The gigantic construction was once financed by a water tax that the people had to pay for it.
Witness to exciting events
Over the centuries, the aqueduct has experienced a lot. In 1755, for example, it survived the great Lisbon earthquake completely unscathed. Between 1836 and 1840, it was the witness of terrible events. The serial killer Diogo Alves robbed over 70 people and then pushed them off the bridge. The “Aqueduct Killer” was later caught and executed. His prepared head still floats in a yellowish liquid and has lost none of its fascination as a tourist attraction.
An architectural masterpiece
The arched bridge spans the valley over a length of more than 900 metres. The highest arch impresses with a height of 65 metres and a width of 28 metres. No water has flowed into the city this way since 1967.
The aqueduct can be walked on a footpath that runs along the closed inner area. It is also possible to visit it from the inside. The entrance is very inconspicuous and is located at the Calçada da Quintinha. From up there, the interested visitor has a wonderful view over the north of Lisbon. Those who want to learn more about Lisbon’s water supply will find further information about wells, reservoirs and pumping stations in the entrance area.