Sete Fontes (Seven Springs) is part of a water supply system built in mid-18th century that supplied potable water to the city of Braga, Portugal until the first half of the 20th century. Currently there are only 6 springs because one was destroyed in the early 1990s to give space for houses.

The remaining parts of Sete Fontes consists of the 6 springs housed in "Mãe de aguas" (mothers of waters) and connect via aqueducts that runs at surface level or in an underground system ("minas"). There are also to cylindrical shaped buildings that are part of the system.

Placed in the outskirts, on the site "Areal de Cima" parish of São Victor close to the Roman Geira (route XVIII). The use of the springs might even date back to roman times when Braga was called Bracara Augusta. In fact, until the start up of the water collection system from the Cávado river in 1914 the Sete Fontes were the main source of water supply to the city, and was used as such til 1929. Still today water is running through the system.

Construction

The main parts of the system was built between 1744 and 1752 under the aegis of the Archbishop D. José de Bragança (1741–1756), although it is known that his predecessor D. Rodrigo de Moura Telles (1704–1728) already had made numerous handiworks. D. Frei (Friar) Caetano Brandão (1790–1805) is believed to have ordered the opening of the Mine of the Orphans (Mina dos orphaons) (1804) to supply water to the homonymous institution, which he founded.

Description

The Sete Fontes complex consists of a cluster of aqueducts and structures which stretch over about 3500 metres. The whole is segmented into 14 underground galleries and 6 junction nodes in an ensemble all built in stone. The more prominent features are the commonly called "Mães de Água" (Mothers of Water). These are made in Baroque architecture style as by their cylindrical structure provided with a vaulted dome trimmed by circular cornices and topped with pinnacles. Each "Mães de Água" is ornamented by the coat of arms of the patron,.

These names of the "Mães de Água" might not be so in widespread use nowadays. Counting from the structure at highest ground they are called (with year stated on them): Mina do Dr. Amorim (1752), Mina do Dr. Nozes, Mina do Dr. Sampaio; Mina dos Órfãos (1804) (it actually says Mina dos Orfaons on it), Mina das Freiras, Mina do Dr. Alvim - de cima, Mina do Dr. Alvim - de baixo (1744) with the close by Mina Preta, Mina das Verdosas 1, Mina das Verdosas 2 (destroyed in 2011) and Mina de Xedas (or Chedas as is the more commonly used name) and Mina de Adelino Correia (destroyed in 1995). There are also two cylindrical shapes (next to Mina dos Órfãos and Freiras) structures that are called “respiros” ( breaths).

This water supply system is a unique specimen of the 18th century Portuguese engineering ranging from the conception of the galleries and visit chambers; in the system's overall layout in the underground and surface piping following the water sources and the topography of the valley. These piping are delicate pieces of work as seen in the design to make each element fit snugly together. Through them the water flow across branches that can be as much as one hundred metres long between the junction nodes.

Of the original aqueduct system there still are 13 water springs with excellent water quality. These are under still maintained by the municipal water supply company. This conducts periodic analysis of the water's quality, as well as providing two keepers that maintain and clean the system. The Sete Fontes could easily be said to form an invaluable underground water resource located inside the urban area that due to its characteristics is an important added value in any strategic plan for the city of Braga. Notably the water of the fountains of the town squares Largo do Paço and Largo Carlos Amarante's comes from Sete Fontes. At the complex there are also two faucets Bica Pública das Sete Fontes (near Mina do Dr Amorim) and Poça da Monte (near Mina das Verdosas 1). The water from the former is check regularly (almost monthly) by the Freguesia (Portugal) de São Vítor.

Destruction

Sete Fontes was mentioned in the City Plans for Braga in 1994. Mina de Adelino Correia was destroyed in 1995. Rumour has it that the stones are stored somewhere in Braga. In the City Plan for Braga from 1999 the upper end of the Sete Fontes was planned to be destroyed to give space for a road with higher classification than national road. In a public consultation from 2003 regarding this planned 2+2 lane road it was explained that more than half of the Sete Fontes would have to be destroyed but the initial study for the EIA noted that at least 5 of the aqueducts and many of Minas would be affected but according to the authors IPPAR had stated the works could be done if properly monitored and the aqueducts were restored after the construction was finished, but sofar no official statement to that affect has been found.

One should also consider that the Sete Fontes are located in an area of urban expansion of which parts have been bought by companies connected to the real estate business without any at that time any plans or details being laid down aimed at preserving and rehabilitating this heritage. From 1995 onwards the City Hall of Braga have on a few occasions stated it will act to preserve Sete Fontes as a National monument and transform the area into a city park, but so far the City Plans have continued to include a large road straight through and over, and classified most of the terrain as appropriate for building,. In the 1999/2000 City Plan three of the upper Minas were within an area classified as public utility, probably referring to the plans to build a hospital here. But also part of the terrain then belonged to the armed forces. The new hospital was officially contemplated in 2002. At least once the City Hall of Braga has attempted to impede the classification. By Portuguese law the authorised agency (IPPAR/IGESPAR/DRCNorte) have to give explicit approval for works taking place within the 50 metre zone. Sofar no such approvals have been posted under the classification file on the site of IGESPAR . In 2009 the Estradas de Portugal also had the idea to put a bridge over Sete Fontes,.

In 2008 a large part of the terrain was put on sale, ca 57950 m2 including Minas das Verdosas 1 and 2, Mina dos Orfãos (Orfaons), Respiro near Mina das Freiras, and half Mina das Freiras, and the concerned aqueducts and underground galleries. The president of the Junta da Freguesia S. Vitor thinks it would be of interest to get clarity about the transactions of the lands including Sete Fontes. Apparently he asked the City Hall for the transaction extracts but have after many years not received any answers. The director of DRC Norte also confirms there have been promises to build on the premises of Sete Fontes. So did the City Hall in claiming that the density of building in Sete Fontes area will be 25% less than first expected in the detail plan for Sete Fontes. The opposition instead suggested that the City Hall should offer the land owners to swop lands since this is a procedure that was successfully implemented when planning for another park near the new football stadium. On this line the City Hall claims they will ensure a 20 hectares park including Sete Fontes, but notably the proposed ZEP (see below section) would imply a park of 56 hectares.

The construction of the new hospital (Escala Braga) is partly on top of the Sete Fontes. At the time the constructions started IGESPAR claimed not to be aware of this. Apparently the construction company had ignored the presence of Sete Fontes. The construction company has expelled at least one of the archaeologist that by law has to accompany the progress of the construction. Much of the loose soil during construction has been swept down by rain water over the area of Sete Fontes, impaired the structural integrity of at least one of the underground galleries, disfigured the landscape and created new ditches within Sete Fontes, especially affecting Mina dos Orfaons. Some Roman remains have been found in the area. At least one ventilation shaft for the underground gallery leading water to Mina dos Orfaons has been disturbed. The constructors have put up a fence (with start in the very end of 2008) within the 50 meter demarcation zone that is the minimum by Portuguese law. Mina das Verdosas 2 and its underground gallery were torn down in February 2011 because of a new road,. The authorities (DRC Norte Estradas de Portugal and the chief of the cabinet of the secretary of state for culture) all claim that both Mina das Verdosas 1 and 2 never were part of Sete Fontes, but the reality would seem to be that they never were included in the classification process by IPPAR/IGESPAR. This probably also why both Estradas de Portugal and the Braga City Hall claimed that the access road to the hospital would not affect Sete Fontes,. Still in early 2011 the GIS system of the City Hall of Braga classified most of the terrains as suitable for construction, i.e. all of it except the part that is now the new hospital.

Classification as national monument

Most of the remaining parts of the system is on private land so it has been proved to be difficult to conserve and promote the system as a Portuguese national heritage. The Portuguese NGO ASPA (Association for the Defence, Study and Promotion of the Natural and Cultural Patrimony) has long been promoting the Sete Fontes as a National monument. Even to the point that they on March the 27th 1995 asked IPPAR - the Portuguese Institute for the Architectonic and Archaeological Patrimony - to classify the Sete Fontes as a national monument (Reference 95/3-15 (1)). The process started very soon after that request,. In 2001 a proposal for the general protection zone (i.e. the 50 metres zone) was published signed by the mayor of Braga. Notably parts of Sete Fontes were not included in the proposed general protection zone, including the two Minas das Verdosas (1 and 2), and the last stretch of the aqueduct until Rua de Areal em Cima, and no special mention of the water basin. It was, however, clearly stated that explicit authorisation is needed from IPPAR (current IGESPAR) to demolish, remove, expropriate, restore or transform Sete Fontes. In 2003 Sete Fontes was put on the official evaluation list to become a national monument. The consultative council of IPPAR suggested to propose Sete Fontes as national monument early May 2003. Later the same month the Minister of Culture classified (PT : homologado) as if were a national monument (homologado).

In May 2009 the Ministry of Culture suggested setting up a special protection zone (Zona Especial de Protecção - ZEP) around the Sete Fontes, a suggestion was published later that year although the official definition of the ZEP has yet to be revealed. Notably, still parts of Sete Fontes were not included in the proposed ZEP, such as the Minas das Verdosas 1 and 2, and the last stretch of the aqueduct up to Rua Areal em Cima, and again, no special mention of the water basin. The publication of this proposed ZEP also opened it for public feedback, albeit all submitted claims and/or suggestions were officially summarily turned down,. A petition undersigned by over 6000 persons was handed over to the president of the Portuguese parliament in mid-2010. Soon after followed a parliamentary discussion after which the parliament issued two official statements in support of classifying Sete Fontes as a national monument,. By law the Sete Fontes had to be classified by end of 2010, otherwise the classification would be lost, but on the very last day of 2010 the time limit was officially postponed for another year. The Portuguese Council of Ministers on 2011-03-03 decreed proceeding with the classification of Sete Fontes as a national monument . The official notification in Portuguese Official Journal (Diário da República) was published in 2011 as well as the definition of the special zone of protection (ZEP). . Large part of this zone has already been invaded by the new hospital and its access roads. Also, Mina das Verdosas 1 & 2 should be protected since they are inside this zone, alas 2 is already destroyed and 1 has suffered some further damages. Oddly, some of the terrain inside the ZEP is still for sale including a large part of the access roads.

Building Activity

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