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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Aqueduct of Segovia

The Aqueduct of Segovia is one of the most significant and best preserved monuments left by the Romans on the Iberian Peninsula. It is the foremost symbol of Segovia, as evidenced by its presence on the cities coat of arms. As the aqueduct lacks a legible inscription, the date of construction cannot be definitively determined. The details of Aqueduct of Segovia are explained in world tour guides below. Researchers have placed it between the second half of the 1st Century CE 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 located in Clunia, stayed behind to settle there.

Aqueduct of SegoviaThe aqueduct transports waters from Fuente Fria river, situated in the nearby mountains some 17 kilometers or 10.6 miles from the city in a region known as La Acebeda. It runs another 15 kilometers or 9.3 miles before arriving in the city. The water is first gathered in a tank known as El Caseron or Big House, and is then led through a channel to a second tower known as the Casa de Aguas. There it is naturally decanted and sand settles out before the water continues its route. Next the water travels 728 meters or 0.45 miles on a one-percent grade until it is high upon the Postigo, a rocky outcropping on which the old city center, the Segovia Alcazar, was built.

The Plaza de Diaz Sanz, the structure makes an abrupt turn and heads toward Plaza Azoguejo. It is there the monument begins to display its full splendor. At its tallest, the aqueduct reaches a height of 28.5 meters or 93.5 ft, including nearly 6 meters or 19.7 ft 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 Diaz 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. The first section of the aqueduct contains 36 pointed arches, rebuilt in the 15th century to restore a portion destroyed by the 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 or 16.1 ft. 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. The channel continuously adjusts to the base height and the topography below. The lower-level arches have an approximate width of 4.5 meters. Their pillars gradually increase in circumference size. The top of each pillar has a cross-section measuring 1.8 by 2.5 meters, while the base cross-section measures approximately 2.4 by 3 meters.

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 Hercules, who according to legend was founder of the city. The other niche now contains the images of the Virgen de la Fuencisla and Saint Stephen.

Aqueduct of SegoviaAqueduct of SegoviaThe first reconstruction of the aqueduct took place during the reign of the King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, known as the Reyes Catolicos or Catholic Monarchs. Don Pedro Mesa, the prior of the nearby Jeronimos del Parral monastery, led the project. 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 4 December, the day of Saint Barbara, 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 cities 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 Alcazar, 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 of 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.

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