This aqueduct stretches for 18km, from Caneças to the Mãe-d’água (the aqueducts’ final cache), just above the Largo do Rato. This is a work from the 18th century, from the government of king João V, “the magnificent”, and its goal was to provide fresh water to the whole city, which was badly needed during the scorching summers. The final stretch of the aqueduct is a monumental piece, with 5 arches uniting the Alcântara valley. 14 of these arches follow the Gothic style and its columns are incredibly tall and strong, below which still today roads and trains pass by.In the 19th century a serial killer acted out his crimes in the aqueduct, when it was used as a passageway between the two hills. At night time, the robber would steal everything from his victims and then throw them down.
Just before it penetrates the cache, the aqueduct makes a Triumph Arch, although what it commemorates is not a military triumph but the entrance of the water in Lisbon. It is solemn and beautiful, with noble, simple lines with no excesses whatsoever. After this, the aqueduct ends in the immense and gorgeous cache, known locally as the Mãe d’Água (“the Mother of Water”), integrated in a lovely, little garden. Today, the cache is a museum and a venue for cultural events. Inside you’ll find the cache itself (called “Water’s Ark”), 7.5 meters deep and with vaulted domes. The water trickles out the cache via a fountain with a sculpture allusive to the god Neptune.
The building follows the 60s’ architecture, with large bodies of concrete and glass extending horizontally and hidden amongst the dense gardens and tree lines. The interiors emphasize the horizontality of its structure and bring about an existentialist serenity. It has a very important collection of Ancient Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian art, as well as European art from all periods, a particularly rich jewel collection by René Lalique, among many, many other collector objects such as books and ceramics.
Next to the library, it has a cafeteria with a lovely terrace facing its enormous gardens, at ground level. The garden itself is a wealth of interweaving species with a myriad of cosy corners for relaxing or meditating. (Av de Berna, 45 A. 10 am – 5.45 pm. Closed on Mondays. Permanent collection: €4).
In an autonomous yet integrated newer building, you find the Centro de Arte Moderna (Modern Art Centre or CAM), which, apart from its central and documental role on the Portuguese art of the last decades, presents many contemporary art exhibitions.
Its cloister is small but the light pours in from the top: as it passes through the Manueline stone lacework, it creates delightful effects. It houses also a Baroque church with the customary gold-leafed wooden pieces, the heavy inlaid wooden frames with paintings and the white and blue tiles on the walls. (R da Madre de Deus, 4. Closed on Mondays and Tuesday mornings).