Alentejo Art and Architecture

A return to Serpa’s unusual aqueduct

A remarkable piece of 17th century water engineering

Serpa is one of those stunning sleeping towns which you could easily never stumble across, but once discovered you’ll probably never want to leave. You may recall from my first post on Serpa I promised I would return with more photographs of the aqueduct. Well my second post may have taken longer to arrive than I intended but here they are. I’ll start with our first glimpse of the aqueduct with its 19 arches.Our first glimpse of this 17th century marvel

The aqueduct is a 17th century addition to Serpa’s 11th century city walls, and is what brought us to Serpa. It was commissioned by the Melo family to draw water from a spring near the Rua dos Lagares, which lies just outside the city walls.

Given the size and complexity of the structure  – just look at the water pump below – I had assumed the aqueduct was providing water for most if not all of Serpa and that this was a remarkable example of aristocratic philanthropy. But no of course it isn’t! The family built this for themselves enabling fresh water to be brought easily to their home the Palácio dos Condes de Ficalho, which they had also built into the city walls.

By the way did you spot the name of their home? Palácio dos Condes de Ficalho which translates as the palace of the Counts of Ficalho. The name Ficalho is the name you’ll find most associated with the aqueduct and the water pump. Which I guess makes sense if the water is being channeled to a house of that name, and the family who commissioned it lived in the house. However it is misleading;

  1. Firstly the family who commissioned this remarkable piece of 17th century water engineering did not acquire the title of ‘Counts of Ficalho’ until the late 18th century when the title was restored by Queen Mary 1, Queen of Portugal.
  2. Secondly in the 17th century the title was still being used by the Spanish family in Aragon for whom it had been originally created in the 16th century.

So I decided that whilst the family are now known as Ficalho I would refer to them here as the Melho family especially as it the Melho crest displayed on the structure! Can you see it below?Spot the family crest!

I am not sure if the family still own the aqueduct and the pump however the palace is still used by them as a summer home. I hope if they do still own the structure they will take care to maintain it. It would be such a shame if this remarkable piece of water engineering was lost.Quite remarkable

PS As you may have guessed from my title this is a Six Word Saturday. I know the content is no where near six Debbie but there was so much to explain!

27 comments on “A return to Serpa’s unusual aqueduct

  1. Thanks for sharing pictures and history. Portugal fascinates me. I’ve never been there but hope to visit someday.
    Dropping by from 6WS

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a fascinating structure. I can see why you needed to post more about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautifully captured! I have never heard of it, but how amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s very elegant, but imagine keeping it all to yourself!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a confusion over the family name. I hope they do take care of this amazing structure.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love old buildings, Becky… and this aqueduct is amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was so fascinated reading this, I never even thought about six words, Becky! That’s my next job 🙂 🙂 I guess we’ll have to saunter up that way again in our 5 weeks. It’s a formidable aqueduct and such a relaxed, gentle place. Happy Saturday!

    Liked by 1 person

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