Photograph: Museu da Água,  © Museu da ÁguaPhotograph: Museu da Água,  © Museu da ÁguaPhotograph: Museu da Água,  © Museu da ÁguaPhotograph: Museu da Água,  © Museu da ÁguaPhotograph: Museu da Água,  © Museu da ÁguaPhotograph: Museu da Água,  © Museu da ÁguaPhotograph: Museu da Água,  © Museu da ÁguaPhotograph: Museu da Água,  © Museu da ÁguaPhotograph: Museu da Água,  © Museu da ÁguaPhotograph: Museu da Água,  © Museu da ÁguaPhotograph: Museu da Água,  © Museu da ÁguaPhotograph: Museu da Água,  © Museu da ÁguaPhotograph: Museu da Água,  © Museu da ÁguaPhotograph: Museu da Água,  © Museu da Água

Name of Monument:

Águas Livres Aqueduct

Also known as:

Aqueduto das Águas Livres


Campolide, Lisbon, Portugal

Contact DetailsÁguas Livres Aqueduct
Museu da Água
Rua do Alviela a Santa Apolónia, 12
1170-012 Lisbon
T : +351 21 810 0215
F : +351 21 810 0202
E :
EPAL – Empresa Portuguesa das Águas Livres SA (Responsible Institution)




Portuguese architect and engineer: Manuel da Maia (1677–1766 ); Italian architect: António Canevari (1671–1764); Portuguese architect and engineer: Custódio Vieira (c. 1690–1744?); main contractor: Carlos Mardel (c. 1695–1763); unknown Hungarian architects and engineers. For the fountain: engineer, Miguel Ângelo Blasco (active 1769–1770); architect: Reinaldo Manuel dos Santos [n.d.].

Denomination / Type of monument:

Civil architecture


Lisbon municipality; King João V


At the beginning of João V's reign, the water supply in Lisbon was at a critically low state so in 1723, in an attempt to overcome the problem, Claudio do Amaral (attorney of west Lisbon) proposed that a study should be carried out on the spring at the Belas Águas Livres. He hoped that the study would allow water from the Belas Águas Livres to be channelled via an aqueduct into Lisbon. The king supported this decision and granted the means necessary to fund the aqueduct such as, in 1729, imposing a tax on the sale of certain goods entering the city (meat, wine, straw, olive oil and salt). Work began on the aqueduct in 1731 and, although construction didn't finish until approximately 1799, water was first channelled by the structure to Lisbon in 1744.


The aqueduct has three main parts: the Mãe d'Água reservoirs located near the spring at the beginning of the course in the Carenque valley; the aqueduct and its secondary aqueducts spreading out around the city with a total length of 58.135 km. The system includes arches over the Alcântara valley. These are 941 m in length with an ensemble of 35 arches of which 14 are pointed and 21 are round. The ultimate destination of the Águas Livres aqueduct is the Mãe d'Água reservoir delivering water to the city. The reservoir is a wide, vaulted construction with an approximate capacity of 5,500 m3. The formal structure is perfectly justifiable for a work of this nature, which demands various materials and rational engineering. The incredible height of the rises of the Aqueduct's arches in the Alcântara valley is astonishing. The technical audacity is largely due to the Custódio Vieira's knowledge of engineering. The aqueduct pays homage to Roman models as it is imposingly “imperial” in its monumentality and even in its geographic position. The scarce ornamentation of Mãe d'Água das Amoreiras reservoir is compensated by the scale of the work and imposition of the vast stripped and solemn walls, as if the building was in fact a temple of the waters.

View Short Description

An aqueduct using a classic system of gravity to capture, conduct and distribute water to the city of Lisbon. An open-air structure, it is mainly known for its monumental pointed arches over the Alcântara valley. There are also the underground galleries, the Mãe d'Água reservoir, and other springs dotted throughout its course. The main, oldest spring is located in the municipality of Sintra, which is endowed with adjacent works, canals and fountains.

How Monument was dated:

Historical evidence and stylistic analysis

Special features

Arches over the Alcântara valley

Parish of Campolide


Manuel da Maia (1677–1766), Custódio Vieira (c. 1690–1744?)

The structure uses the pointed arch in some of the larger arches crossing the Alcântara valley. Curiously, some of the stones of the Aqueduct are inscribed with the masons' initials, a custom that was all but lost but which was revived here.

Mãe d’ Água das Amoreiras reservoir

Amoreiras Square, Lisbon


Carlos Mardel (c. 1695–1763)

Mãe d' Água das Amoreiras reservoir was designed by Carlos Mardel. Due to its monumentality, the Mãe d'Água constitutes a true civic temple to the águas livres (free waters). An antechamber precedes the vast rectangle which contains a deep reservoir.

Rua das Amoreiras Arch

Amoreiras Street, Lisbon


Carlos Mardel (c. 1695–1763)

Thanks to the architectural risk-taking of Carlos Mardel, the Rua das Amoreiras arch was built between 1746 and 1748. Two things make this monumental structure particularly notable: its innovation, for over the final perpendicular branch of the aqueduct the water galleries from Alcântara run and this had never before been seen; and the engineering – from here the aqueduct turns sharp right to the Mãe d'Água reservoir. The Amoreiras Arch frames the Rua das Amoreiras and represented at one time an “entrance”, as if it were an arch in a defensive wall, highlighting both the exceptional status of this hydraulic masterpiece and its setting.

Carmo Fountain

Carmo Square

1769–70; 1786

Attributed to the engineer, Miguel Ângelo Blasco (1769–1770) and the architect, Reinaldo Manuel dos Santos [n.d.]

From the Mãe d' Água das Amoreiras reservoir, a secondary aqueduct spreads out around the city terminating in fountains, many of them like this one still extant. Built by the engineer, Miguel Ângelo Blasco in 1769, it was redesigned by Reinaldo Manuel dos Santos in 1786.

St. Paulo Obelisk Fountain

St. Paulo Square

1774; 1848

Design: Reinaldo Manuel dos Santos [n.d.]; adapted by Malaquias Ferreira Leal (1790–1855)

From the Mãe d' Água das Amoreiras, a secondary aqueduct spreads out around the city terminating in fountains, many of them like this one still extant. Designed by Reinaldo Manuel dos Santos in 1774, it was not built until 1848, with minor adaptations by Malaquias Ferreira Leal.

Selected bibliography:

Sequeira, G. M., Catálogo da Exposição Cultural Relativa ao Aqueduto das Águas Livres e Abastecimento de Água à Cidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, 1940.
Santos, E. dos, “Manuel da Maia e o Aqueduto das Águas Livres, Revista Municipal”, Lisbon, Ano XIII, No. 94, 3rd Trimester, 1962.
Franca, J.-A., Lisboa Pombalina e o Iluminismo, Lisbon, 1977.
D. João V e o Abastecimento de Água a Lisboa, exhibition catalogue, 2 vols, Lisbon, 1990.
Caetano, J. de Oliveira, Chafarizes de Lisboa, Lisbon, 1991.

Citation of this web page:

Paulo Pereira "Águas Livres Aqueduct" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2023.;BAR;pt;Mon11;27;en

Prepared by: Paulo PereiraPaulo Pereira

SURNAME: Pereira
NAME: Paulo

AFFILIATION Faculty of Architecture, Technical University of Lisbon

TITLE: University Lecturer

Paulo Pereira holds an MA in Cultural Studies and has been a speaker at numerous seminars and congresses in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, the United States and Brazil. Paulo has co-ordinated and published books about Portuguese art and history, some of which are award winning. He is curator of several exhibitions held in Portugal, Ghent, Brussels and Berlin and been a contributing author for several exhibition catalogues. He has exercised managerial roles within the Town Hall of Lisbon, was Vice President of the Portuguese Heritage Institute (IGESPAR) and is a lecturer at the Technical University of Lisbon (Faculty of Architecture).

Translation by: Lili Cavalheiro, Manuel Silva Pereira
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: PT 27


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