Aqueduct of Segovia


Aqueduct of Segovia

Infobox World Heritage Site
WHS = Old Town of Segovia and its Aqueduct


State Party = ESP
Type = Cultural
Criteria = i, iii, iv
ID = 311
Region = Europe and North America
Year = 1985
Session = 9th
Link = http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/311
The Aqueduct of Segovia (or more precisely, the aqueduct bridge) is one of the most significant and best-preserved monuments left by the Romans on the Iberian Peninsula. It is among the most important symbols of Segovia, as is evidenced by its presence on the city's coat of arms.

History

As it lacks a legible inscription (one was apparently located in aqueduct's "attic", or top portion), the date of construction cannot be definitively determined. Researchers have placed it between the second half of the 1st Century AD and the early years of the 2nd Century— during the reign of either Emperor Vespasian or Nerva. The beginnings of Segovia itself are likewise not definitively known. Vacceos are known to have populated the area before the Romans conquered the city. Roman troops sent to control the area, which fell within the jurisdiction of the Roman provincial court (Latin "conventus iuridici", Spanish "convento jurídico") located in Clunia, stayed behind to settle there.

Description

The aqueduct transports waters from Spring Fuenfría, situated in the nearby mountains some 17 kilometers (10.6 miles) from the city in a region known as La Acebeda. It runs another 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) before arriving in the city. The water is first gathered in a tank known as "El Caserón" (or "Big House"), and is then led through a channel to a second tower known as the "Casa de Aguas" (or "Waterhouse"). There it is naturally decanted and sand settles out before the water continues its route. Next the water travels 728 meters (.45 miles) on a one-percent grade until it is high upon the "Postigo", a rocky outcropping on which the old city center, the Segovia Alcázar, was built. Then, at Plaza de Díaz Sanz (Díaz Sanz Square), the structure makes an abrupt turn and heads toward Plaza Azoguejo (Azoguejo Square). It is there the monument begins to display its full splendor. At its tallest, the aqueduct reaches a height of 28.5 meters (93.5 feet), including nearly 6 meters (19.7 feet) of foundation. There are both single and double arches supported by pillars. From the point the aqueduct enters the city until it reaches Plaza de Díaz Sanz, it boasts 75 single arches and 44 double arches (or 88 arches when counted individually), followed by four single arches, totalling 167 arches in all.

The construction of the aqueduct follows the principles laid out by Vitruvius as he describes in his De Architectura published in the mid-first century.

Construction

The first section of the aqueduct contains 36 pointed arches, rebuilt in the 15th Century to restore a portion destroyed by Moors in 1072. The line of arches is organized in two levels, decorated simply, in which predominantly simple moulds hold the frame and provide support to the structure. On the upper level, the arches have a total width of 5.1 meters (16.1 feet). Built in two levels, the top pillars are both shorter and narrower than those on the lower level. The top of the structure contains the channel through which water travels, through a U-shaped hollow measuring 0.55 by 0.46 meters (1.8 by 1.5 feet). The channel continuously adjusts to the base height and the topography below. The lower-level arches have an approximate width of 4.5 meters (14.8 feet); Their pillars gradually increase in circumference size. The top of each pillar has a cross-section measuring 1.8 by 2.5 meters (5.9 by 8.2 feet), while the base cross-section measures approximately 2.4 by 3 meters (7.9 by 9.8 feet).

The aqueduct is built of unmortared, brick-like granite blocks. During the Roman era, each of the three tallest arches displayed a sign in bronze letters, indicating the name of its builder along with the date of construction. Today, two niches are still visible, one on each side of the aqueduct. One of them is known to have held the image of the Egyptian Hercules, who according to legend was founder of the city. The other niche now contains the images of the "Virgen de la Fuencisla" (the Patroness of Segovia) and Saint Stephen.

ubsequent History

The first reconstruction of the aqueduct took place during the reign of the King Ferdinand and Queen Isabelle, known as the "Reyes Católicos" or Catholic Monarchs. Don Pedro Mesa led the project, the prior of the nearby Jerónimos del Parral monastery. A total of 36 arches were rebuilt, with great care taken not to change any of the original work or style. Later, in the 16th Century, the central niches and above-mentioned statues were placed on the structure. On Saint Barbara's Day (4 December), who is the patron saint of artillery, the cadets of the local military academy drape the image of the Virgin in a flag.

The aqueduct is the city's most important architectural landmark. It had been kept functioning throughout the centuries and preserved in excellent condition. It provided water to Segovia, mainly to the Segovia Alcázar, until recently. During the 20th Century, the aqueduct suffered wear and tear due to pollution from heaters and automobiles. The latter used to pass below the arches. Natural erosion from the granite itself has also affected the structure through the years. Contrary to popular belief, vibrations caused by traffic do not affect the aqueduct due to its great mass. Restoration projects, supervised by architect Francisco Jurado, have been ongoing since 1997 in order to guarantee the aqueduct's survival. During the restoration, traffic has been re-routed, and Plaza Azoguejo has been converted into a pedestrian zone.

The Legend

According to a popular legend, sloth, rather than Romans, was responsible for the construction of the aqueduct. A woman who worked as a water carrier, fed up with hauling her pitcher through the steep streets of the city, made a pact with the devil: the devil could take her soul if water would arrive at her doorstep before the rooster crowed. When night fell, a great storm fell upon the city. None of its citizens except the woman knew that this was no normal storm, but instead was the devil working to keep his part of the bargain. However, she repented and prayed all night to avoid fulfilling the pact. According to the legend, the rooster crowed just before the devil could lay the final stone, and thus the woman's soul was saved.

The woman confessed her sin to the citizens who, after spraying the arches with holy water, were happy to accept the new addition to the city. Convinced that a miracle had saved the woman's soul, a statue of the Virgin and Saint Stephen were placed atop the aqueduct in commemoration.

ee also

*Aqueducts
*Roman aqueducts
*Roman technology
*Vitruvius

External links

* [http://acueducto.atspace.com Club de Amigos del Acueducto] ("'Friends of the Aqueduct' Club"). Extensive collection of photos of the Aqueduct, photos of models of the Aqueduct in settings around the world, etc.
* [http://www.feelmadrid.com/segovia.html Aqueduct of Segovia] - Information and photos.
* [http://www.romanaqueducts.info/ 600 Roman aqueducts with 35 descriptions in detail among which the Segovia aqueduct]

References

*"The Spanish version of this article [http://enciclopedia.us.es/index.php/Acueducto_de_Segovia incorporates text from] Enciclopedia Libre, published in Spanish and is GFDL


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