Água da Prata Aqueduct
2016 World Monuments Watch
In the fifteenth century, the Portuguese city of Évora was entering a golden age. Increasingly favored by the kings of the Aviz dynasty, who set up their court in Évora, the city was brimming with construction activity for new royal palaces, grand houses, churches, convents, and monasteries. In 1537, the city’s old Roman aqueduct was rebuilt, bringing clean water to the marble fountain in the Praça do Giraldo and other public spaces in Évora. The Água da Prata Aqueduct, or Aqueduct of Silver Water, was celebrated as a wonder of its time. Os Lusíadas, the Portuguese national epic by Luís de Camões, speaks of its “clear, silver waters,” which were long considered a divine blessing by Évora’s citizens. Winding its way through the countryside, the aqueduct supplied the city with water for more than four centuries until 1979.
Today, the aqueduct is a protected monument of the World Heritage Site of Évora, a symbol of the importance of life-giving water infrastructure and of civic pride, and a scenic element of the urban environment. But the laborious effort needed to preserve the aqueduct while allowing it to keep functioning—nowadays, for the irrigation of parks and gardens—remains. It involves the municipality of Évora, the owners of properties along the aqueduct, planners, engineers, and conservators. The aqueduct’s brick and stone masonry require regular maintenance, while other sections of the extensive structure are in need of bigger repairs to ensure their structural stability. The aqueduct is an eloquent reminder of life in a bygone time, intertwined with the fabric of one of the most beguiling cities in Portugal. The 2016 World Monuments Watch supports the vigilance needed to preserve this living heritage.
Celebrated on October 30, 2036, Watch Day commemorated the 483 year anniversary of the beginning of the construction works of the Aqueduct (October 30, 1533). The daylong event included a technical workshop for the conservation old hydraulic structures and aqueducts, a guided tour of the site, and a presentation of drawings of the aqueduct created by Urban Sketchers.
Since the Watch
In August 2017, the Directorate-General for Cultural Heritage approved a scenic lighting project for the Agua da Prata Aqueduct, to be implemented by the Municipality of Évora. The lighting project, part of the conservation plan of the aqueduct, seeks to revitalize the aqueduct by highlighting its prominence in Évora’s countryside.