Tarragona (Spain)

For the photo's, see below

Tarraco (Tarragona) had at least two aqueducts, one with its source in the Rio Gayá, NE of the city, and the other with its source in the Rio Francolí, to the north. A third aqueduct may have carried water to the port area, but is only cited by a source in the 16th century and further poorly known. Water was needed not only for the city, the capital of Hispania Tarraconensis, but also for the numerous ships that visited the harbour. The Gayá and Francolí aqueducts served the higher parts of the city with its monumental provincial forum, which lies on a hill to the east of the port area.

The Gayá aqueduct had its water intake point probably close to Pont d'Armentera in the Gayá river northeast of Tarraco, and in that case was the longest roman aqueduct of Tarraco (Pont d'Armentera lies 7 km east of exit 10 on the motorway A2 from Barcelona to Lleida). It is mostly underground and lacks spectacular features. It was renovated in the 18th century by Joan Antonio Rovira on orders of Archbishop Santiyán and was repaired many times since then. As a result, most traces of the roman channel have been destroyed, but some remains can be seen close to the ruins of the 18th century aqueduct along the Calle Rovira i Virgili and also along the road that leads to Pont d'Armentera.

The Francolí aqueduct has minor remains along most of its length. In Tarragona, remains can be seen near the "Fuente de los Cuatro Algarrobos", north of the city, abouts 250 metres east of the N 240, in the Camino del Ángel at the junction with Avenida de Catalunya, and at the outer wall or Falsa Braga, where it apparently divides into sections that feeds the upper and lower city respectively. North of Tarragona, there are also remains in El Mas Blanquet, and in the del Castellot brook, 250 m upstream of the Pont del Tupino. The difference in altitude measured for these remains 1080 m apart is 4,4 m which gives a gradient of 0,4% . The source in the Rio Francoli was probably opposite the village of El Rourell at an altitude of 92 metres.

The most spectacular feature of the Francolí aqueduct is the aqueduct bridge of Ferreras, also known as the Puente del Diablo (devil's bridge) with a maximum height of 26 m and a length of 249 m, including the ends where the specus runs on a wall. It consists of two tiers of arches, all with the same diameter of 20 Roman feet (5,9m) with a variation of 15 cm. The distance between centres of the pillars is 26 Roman feet (7,95m). The present width of the specus is 2,5 roman feet, but this may have been modified by restorations in the course of time. A special feature of this aqueduct bridge is the stepped nature of the piers below the imposts of the arches. Each step increase the width of the pier by half a roman foot (15 cm), almost certainly to increase stability. Similar stepped piers are known for the aqueduct of Metz in France. The bridge probably dates from the time of Augustus. There is a small quarry 100 m North of the bridge which may have provided the building stone.
The Ferreras aqueduct bridge can be easily reached from the N 240, but also from a parking on the A7 motorway (only for travellers coming from the direction of Barcelona!). From the parking, it is possible to walk in the specus over the aqueduct, and also to reach the valley below.

C.W. Passchier
For the pictures, see below.

Tarragona - TARRACO

Item Info
Length 25 km
Cross-section width 0,74 m (2,5 roman feet)
Volume ?? m3/day
Fall central part 0,4 %
Period Augustan
  • major bridge
  • minor remains of other bridges
  • channel, see main text

Recommended literature : Fernando Sáenz Ridruejo, Observaciones tècnicas sobre el abastecimiento romano de aguas a tarragona. Symposium de la Archaeologia romana 1974
Recommended website : Tarragona
How to visit : See description above
HOME More literature on more aqueducts Last modified: March 25, 2005 - Wilke D. Schram
(W.D.Schram 'at' romanaqueeducts.info)

Aqueduct of Tarragona

Puente de Ferreras

Antique drawing

Puente de Ferreras

Puente de Ferreras

Puente de Ferreras