Sete Fontes (Braga)

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Coordinates: 41°34′10.16″N 8°24′13.90″W / 41.5694889°N 8.4038611°W / 41.5694889; -8.4038611
Sete Fontes (Complexo das Sete Fontes)
18th century water supply to Braga
Water supply (Abastecimento de água)
Sete Fontes - Fontes Gemeas.JPG
Some of the access houses within the civil parish of São Vitor
Official name: Sistema de abastecimento de água à cidade de Braga no Século XVIII/Sete Fontes
Named for: Seven Springs
Country  Portugal
Region Norte
Subregion Cávado
District Braga
Municipality Braga
Location São Vítor
 - elevation 226 m (741 ft)
 - coordinates 41°34′10.16″N 8°24′13.90″W / 41.5694889°N 8.4038611°W / 41.5694889; -8.4038611
Length 1,075 m (3,527 ft), Southwest-Northeast
Width 800 m (2,625 ft), Northwest-Southeast
Architects unknown
Style Baroque
Materials Granite, Iron
Origin 1st century
 - Initiated 16th century
Owner Portuguese Republic
For public Private
Visitation Open
Management Instituto Gestão do Patrimonio Arquitectónico e Arqueológico
Status National Monument
Listing Decree 16/2011; Diário da Repúblic, Série 1/101, 25 May 2011; ZPE, Dispatch 576/2011, Diário da Repúblic 110, Série 2, 7 June 2011
Wikimedia Commons: Sete Fontes

The Sete Fontes (literally, Seven Springs) is part of a large water supply system built in mid-18th century, that supplied potable water to the northern Portuguese municipality of Braga, until the first half of the 20th century. In reality, there are only six springs from this network that still exist, following destruction of one in the early 1990s, to allow the construction of residential homes. The remaining sections of the Sete Fontes are identifiable for the springs that are housed within their respective Mãe de aguas (mothers of waters), which are connected via aqueducts running along the surface or through underground tunnels, known as minas (mines).


View of the mães de água that pin the Sete Fontes
A terrestrial covered aqueduct interlinking the mães de água in the Sete Fontes complex
One of the covered aqueducts carrying water between each junction
A water treatment analysis evaluation from the civil parish of São Vítor certifying the quality of its waters

The system is located on the outskirts of the civil parish of São Victor close to the ancient Roman Geira (also known as Route XVIII). There is speculation that these springs may date to the Roman occupation, when Braga was then known as Bracara Augusta.

For Braga, the necessity to support its population, came from its archbishops, which were preoccupied with these issued at least until the 16th century.[1] Until the beginning of that century, D. Diogo de Sousa had brought water from Fonte dos Granginhos, in 1531 until Fonte de Santiago and Fonte da Pracinha, while (at the same time) constructing the fountain of Carcova, building a fountain in the Largo do Paço.[1]

The main sections of the system were constructed between 1744 and 1752, under the patronage of Archbishop D. José de Bragança (1741–1756),[2] although it is known that his predecessor D. Rodrigo de Moura Telles (1704–1728) already completed portions of the network: first deposit dates to 1752.[1] D. José became interested in this issue immediately after arrive in Braga, starting in August 1741, and continuing at a steady rhythm until 1744.[1] For his part, D. Rodrigo de Moura Telles supplied water to the Hospital of São Marcos and substituted this fountain with the another (the Fountain of Castelos).[1][1][3]

Friar D. Caetano Brandão (1790–1805) ordered the opening of the Mina dos orphaons (Mine of the Orphans) around 1804 to supply water to the institution which he founded.


By 1914, the network continued to function.[2] Until the beginning of water treatment and supply from the Cávado River in 1914, the Sete Fontes was the main source of water for the city. It continued to be used until 1929, even as water continues to flow through the system.[4] Still today water is running through the system.

Although the Sete Fontes was mentioned within the city plans of Braga as late as 1994, as an important resource, beginning in the mid-1990s several developments put in cause the protection of the historical system.[5] The Mina de Adelino Correia was destroyed in 1995, with rumour developing that the stones were stored somewhere in Braga. On 18 April 1995, a dispatch was authorized for the system's evaluation for consideration as a national monument.


A Mina do Respiro sandwiched between a wall within the Sete Fontes complex
The Mina of Dr. Sampaio on the an slight incline
One of the "twinned" fountains of Dr. Alvim
An interior perspective of the water junction in the Mina of Dr. Sampaio

The 1999 city plan indicated that the upper portion of the Sete Fontes was to be destroyed in order to provide space for the construction of an extension to the national road network. During public consultations in 2003, regarding this planned 4-lane roadway, engineers indicated the need to destroy half of the Sete Fontes in order to build the expansion.[6] The initial Environmental impact assessment (EIA) noted that at least five of the aqueducts and many of minas would be affected by this construction project, but researchers at the Instituto Português do Património Arquitectónico (IPPAR), stated the project could be completed, if proper monitoring was accomplished, noting that the aqueducts should be restored after the construction was completed.[7]

The area occupied by the Sete Fontes is located in an area designated for urban expansion within the municipal plan. Many of the parcels were purchased by real estate companies and/or developers, without submitting plans for the system's preservation and rehabilitation. Although, the municipal authorities had indicated their desire to preserve the Sete Fontes as a National monument and transform the area into a municipal park, the area continued to be identified for construction and road redevelopment, in the municipal plan.[8][9] In the 1999-2000 municipal plan, three of the upper minas fell within an area classified as "public utility" and were zoned for the construction of a hospital in 2002.[10] Yet, theses lands were also classified for use by the Portuguese armed forces.

On one occasion, the municipal government had attempted to impede the re-classification process for the system.[11] Concerning nationally sensitive heritage sites, Portuguese law states that the authorized patrimonial agency (IPPAR, IGESPAR or DRCNorte) has to give explicit approval for projects within 50 metres (160 ft) of a designated structure, or group of structures.[12] There have been no approvals under its classification file.[1]

In 2009, in order to remedy the planned construction, Estradas de Portugal suggested the construction of a bridge over Sete Fontes.[13][14]

In 2008, a large section of the lands, 57,950 square metres (623,800 sq ft), were put on sale: these included the parcels that covered the Minas das Verdosas 1, Minas das Verdosas 2, Mina dos Orfãos, Mina do Respiro (near Mina das Freiras), and half Mina das Freiras, that also included various aqueducts and underground galleries.

The president of the local Junta Freguesia of São Vitor thinks attempted to obtain clarification as to the status of the Sete Fontes, and the sale of these lands. Approaching the municipal authorities, on several occasions, the president had not received any answers.[15] Yet, the director of the Direção Regional de Cultura do Norte (DRCNorte) also confirmed that there were promises to build on lands of theSete Fontes.[16] Inadvertently, this was also supported by claims on building densities for the area of Sete Fontes, where the municipal authority indicated that proposed densities were 25% less than first expected, in the detailed plan for Sete Fontes.[17] Opposition politicians within the municipal council suggested that landowners within the Sete Fontes should trade their lands for others in the region, a process that was successfully implemented with the construction of the municipal stadium.[18] By trading lands with local developers, it was assumed that the city could ensure a 20 hectare greenspace (that included the Sete Fontes), and a park of 56 hectares.

At the time of the construction of the local hospital, the site-plan for the building was partially covered the Sete Fontes complex. When contacted, the Instituto de Gestão do Património Arquitectónico e Arqueológico (IGESPAR), the patrimonial agency responsible for the site, claimed that they were unaware of the situation: the construction company had ignored the presence of Sete Fontes.[19] During the construction, representatives of the construction company expelled at least one of the archaeologists, that by law were required to accompany the progress of the construction. This followed the drainage of loose soil downstream by rainwater, into the area of the Sete Fontes, that impaired the structural integrity of at least one of the underground galleries, altered the landscape and created ditches, affecting the Mina dos Orfãos. During the building process, Roman ruins were discovered within the area.

At least one ventilation shaft for the underground gallery leading water to Mina dos Orfão was disturbed. At the end of 2008, the builders erected a fence just within the 50 metres (160 ft) minimum demarcation zone required by Portuguese law. The Mina das Verdosas 2, and its underground gallery, were demolished in February 2011 because of a new road.[20][21] The authorities (DRCNorte, Estradas de Portugal and the cabinet chief of the Secretary of State for Culture) claimed that both Mina das Verdosas 1 and 2 were never part of Sete Fontes (but in reality were never included in the IPPAR/IGESPAR classification process). In addition, the both Estradas de Portugal and Braga Municipal Council claimed that the access road to the hospital would not affect Sete Fontes.[22] By early 2011, the city's geograpgical information system platform, continued to classify most of the terrains as suitable for construction (except for those included within the hospital's construction zone).


Since most of the remaining sections of the complex are on private land the process of conserving and promoting the group has been difficult. The non-governmental organization Associação para a Defesa, Estudo e Divulgação do Património Cultural e Natural (Association for the Defence, Study and Promotion of the Natural and Cultural Patrimony) had, for long period of time, been promoting the Sete Fontes as a National monument. The organization petition the IPPAR on 27 March 1995 to classify the Sete Fontes as a national monument, in dispatch 95/3-15 (1). A process was begun shortly after this request. In 2001, a proposal for the 50 metres (160 ft) general protection zone was published, and signed by the mayor of Braga, but many structures of the Sete Fontes were excluded from the ZPE, including the two Minas das Verdosas (1 and 2), as well as the final aqueduct to Rua de Areal em Cima, which not mention the water basin. In 2003, Sete Fontes was placed on the official evaluation for national monument status, and in May 2003, after the proposal of the IPPAR, the signed the Minister of Culture signed the decree.[2]

In May 2009, the Ministry of Culture suggested setting up Zona de Protecção Especial (ZPE) around the Sete Fontes complex, which was published later that year (although the official definition of the ZPE was never defined). Specifically, although many of the sections of the Sete Fontes were included, the areas around Minas das Verdosas (1 and 2) and aqueduct of Rua Areal em Cima were not included. The establishment of the ZPE, included provisions for public consultation and feedback, although all claims and suggestions were summarily turned down. A petition undersigned by over 6000 persons was handed over to the president of the Portuguese parliament in mid-2010. A parliamentary committee discussed these issues, and debate occurred in parliament, after which two official statements were issued indicating the support of classifying Sete Fontes as a national monument.[23] By law, the Sete Fontes had to be classified by end of 2010, otherwise the classification would be annulled, but on the final day of 2010, the process was extented for another year.[24] The Portuguese Council of Ministers, on 3 March 2011 decreed that they would be proceeding with the classification of Sete Fontes as a national monument, with the official notification occurring in the Portuguese Official Journal (Diário da República), published in 2011, which also included the definition of the special zone of protection (ZPE).[25][26] A large part of the ZPE, as defined, continues to be occupied by the hospital and its access roads.


The Sete Fontes complex consists of a cluster of aqueducts and structures stretching over 3,500 metres (11,500 ft)) in the parish of São Vítor.[2] The network is segmented into 14 underground galleries and six junctions in an ensemble built in stone.[2]

The more prominent features of this system, are the commonly referred Mães de Água (Mothers of Water).[2] These structures are built in the Baroque-style, consisting of a cylindrical structure and vaulted dome, trimmed by a circular cornice and topped with pinnacles.[1][2] Each Mães de Água is decorated with a coat of arms representing its patron.[1][2][27][28] Although rarely used in their identification today, the Mães de Água include (from the highest elevation): Mina do Dr. Amorim (1752), Mina do Dr. Nozes, Mina do Dr. Sampaio, Mina dos Órfãos (1804), Mina das Freiras, Mina do Dr. Alvim (de cima), Mina do Dr. Alvim (de baixo) (1744), Mina Preta, Mina das Verdosas 1, Mina das Verdosas 2 (destroyed in 2011) and Mina de Xedas/Chedas and Mina de Adelino Correia (destroyed in 1995). There are also two untitled cylindrical structures, breathers (Portuguese: respiros), near the Mina dos Órfãos and Mina das Freiras.[1][2]

The Sete Fontes is a unique specimen of the 18th-century Portuguese engineering, that includes the creation of galleries and visitors chambers; the layout of underground and surface channeling of water; and the attempt to follow the valley's natural topography.[1][2] The pipes are delicate works, its elements fitting snugly together, its waters branching across the system for almost 100 metres (330 ft) between junctions.[1][2]

Of the original aqueduct system, there still are 13 springs providing potable water, regularly maintained by municipal water supply division.[1][2] This branch conducts periodic analysis of the water's quality, maintains a two-person staff to maintain and clean the system.[1][2] The Sete Fontes continues to be used as a water resource, integrated within the city of Braga's strategic plan and providing water to fountains of the town squares Largo do Paço and Largo Carlos Amarante.[1] In addition, there are two public faucets, the Bica Pública das Sete Fontes (near Mina do Dr. Amorim) and Poça da Monte (near Mina das Verdosas 1), that are regularly maintained (monthly) by the local authority of São Vítor.[1][2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Carvalho, Rosário (2011). IGESPAR, ed. "Sistema de Abastecimento de Águas à cidade de Braga no século XVIII, designado por "Sete Fontes"" (in Portuguese). Lisbon, Portugal: IGESPAR - Instituto de Gestão do Património Arquitectónico e Arqueológico. Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Santos, João; Basto, Sónia (2011), SIPA, ed., Sistema de abastecimento de água à cidade de Braga no Século XVIII/Sete Fontes (PT010303510096) (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal: SIPA –Sistema de Informação para o Património Arquitectónico, retrieved 31 December 2012 
  3. ^ Costa, Luís (4 June 2001), "Sobre as Sete Fontes", Diário do Minho (in Portuguese) (Braga, Portugal) 
  4. ^ "Defesa das Sete Fontes ainda não terminou", Diário do Minho (in Portuguese), Braga, Portugal, 23 March 2011 
  5. ^ Plano Director Municipal (1994) (in Portuguese), Braga, Portugal: Câmara Municipal da Braga, 1994 
  6. ^ Bandeira, Miguel Melo (8 September 2003), "A auto-estrada que ameaça atropelar fatalmente as Sete Fontes", Diário do Minho, Braga, Portugal 
  7. ^ O estudo prévio da Estudo Impacto Ambiental do variante à EN 103 em Gualtar: Resumo não técnico (in Portuguese), Braga, Portugal: Ecosistema Lda., June 2003 
  8. ^ "Planta de Ordenamento (Folha B3.3)", Plano Director Municipal (2000) (in Portuguese), Braga, Portugal: Câmara Municipal da Braga, 2000 
  9. ^ "Proposta PDM de Braga Fig. 4.6", Planta rede viária do Concelho do Relatório da Avaliaçãoda Execução (in Portuguese), Braga, Portugal: Câmara Municipal da Braga, 2008 
  10. ^ "Despacho n.º 1977/2002 (2.ª série)", Diário da República (in Portuguese) (Lisbon, Portugal), Série II (21), 25 January 2002: 1589–1590 
  11. ^ "Câmara impede classificação de monumento", Correio da Manhã (Lisbon, Portugal), 1 January 2011 
  12. ^ "Lei 107/2001de 08.09.2001: Estabelece as bases da política e do regime de protecção e valorização do património cultural", Diário da República (in Portuguese) (Lisbon, Portugal), Série 1A (209), 8 September 2001: 5808 
  13. ^ EP confirma viaduto sobre Sete Fontes (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal: Jornal de Notícias, 11 August 2009 
  14. ^ "Estradas de Portugal garante ‘integridade’ das Sete Fontes", Correio do Minho (in Portuguese) (Braga, Portugal), 12 December 2009 
  15. ^ "Alta densidade construtiva ameaça monumento nacional sito em Braga", Diário do Minho (in Portuguese) (Braga, Portugal), 20 May 2009 
  16. ^ "Braga: BE questiona Governo sobre eventuais projetos urbanísticos junto a monumento das Sete Fontes", Correio do Minho (in Portuguese) (Braga, Portugal), 6 May 2010 
  17. ^ "Grande pressão das construtoras sobre executivo de Braga nas Sete Fontes", Diário do Minho (in Portuguese) (Braga, Portugal), 28 November 2010 
  18. ^ Oposição sugere permutas para proteger Sete Fontes (in Portuguese), Braga, Portugal: Diário do Minho, December 2010 
  19. ^ "Projecto do novo hospital de Braga ignorou complexo das Sete Fontes", Diário do Minho (in Portuguese) (Braga, Portugal), 30 January 2009 
  20. ^ "Variante do hospital de Braga suspeita de atropelar legalidade", Diário do Minho (in Portuguese) (Braga, Portugal), 1 April 2011 
  21. ^ "Mina das Verdosas de Braga vai ser remontada", Público (in Portuguese) (Lisbon, Portugal), 2 September 2011 
  22. ^ "As Estradas de Portugal decidiram não passar a variante pelas Sete Fontes", Diário do Minho (in Portuguese) (Braga, Portugal), 26 June 2010 
  23. ^ "A preservação do complexo monumental das Sete Fontes em debate na Assembleia da República", Correio do Minho (in Portuguese) (Braga, Portugal), 10 June 2010 
  24. ^ "Procedimento prorrogado até 31 de Dezembro de 2011 pelo Despacho n.º 19338/2010", Diário da República, Série 2 (252), 30 December 2010 
  25. ^ "Decreto n.º 16/2011, de 25 de Maio", Diário da República (in Portuguese) (Lisbon, Portugal), Série 1 (101), 25 May 2011 
  26. ^ "Portaria n.º 576/2011 de 30 de Maio de 2011-06-11, Gabinete do Secretário de Estado da Cultura, Min Cultura", Diário da República (in Portuguese) (Lisbon, Portugal), Série 2 (110), 7 June 2011 
  27. ^ Costa, Luís (4 June 2001), "Entra Aspas: Sobre as Sete Fontes", Diário do Minho (in Portuguese) (Braga, Portugal) 
  28. ^ Costa, Luís (23 September 2002), "Entre Aspas: O Arcebispo Dom José de Bragança e as Sete Fontes", Diário do Minho (in Portuguese) (Braga, Portugal) 
  • "Água: de hoje a muitos anos que corra pelos mesmos canos", Jornal de Notícias (in Portuguese) (Lisbon, Portugal), 12 February 1996 
  • Guia de Portugal (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal, 1986 
  • Nóbrega, Vaz Osório da (1971), Pedras Tumulares e Armas Tumulares do Distrito de Braga (in Portuguese) I (Tomo II), Braga, Portugal: Cidade de Braga 
  • "São Victor: Junta que ser parceira na preservação das Sete Fontes", Correio do Minho (in Portuguese) (Braga, Portugal), 4 January 2006: 8 

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