One of Rio de Janeiro’s oldest surviving colonial landmarks,
the Arcos da Lapa, also known as the Carioca Aqueduct, stretches
800 feet long.
A double row of 42 graceful arches, the Arcos da Lapa was once
responsible for carrying water from the Rio Carioca to the 16 spout
fountain in Largo da Carioca. It was from this fountain that Rio’s
citizens drew their water. It is said that the original composition
of the monument was a mixture of whale oil, limestone, granite,
sand and bricks, the 18th century predecessor of concrete. According
to most sources, this composition has never been altered.
Built in 1750, the Arcos da Lapa has evolved over the years and
is used today as a viaduct to connect downtown Rio to the area known
as Santa Theresa. It’s architecture resembling that of the
Roman aqueducts, Arcos da Lapa was a monumental venture in it’s
time that has continued to evolve to meet the needs of the population
of Rio de Janeiro.
In the 1890’s the aqueduct was converted into a bridge for
electric streetcars. At one point in time, the arches served as
the gateway to what was known as the Lapa district. Most of those
buildings have been razed and were replaced by a large square that
is often home to concerts and other events.
The original structure apparently included a pillar that stood
in the middle of Rua dos Arcos. In 1872, that pillar was removed
and replaced with the double arch that is seen in many older photographs
of the Arcos da Lapa. In 1950, another pillar that stood at Av.
Mem de Sá/Rua Riachuelo was also removed and replaced with
a second double arch. Later in 1963, both of the larger double arches
were removed and the smaller arches of the original design were
restored, leaving the structure as it can be seen today. Stretching
18 meters into the sky, the Arcos da Lapa was granted historical
registration by the National Secretary of Historical and Artistic
Patrimony and today provides the area with the only trolley system
still in existence in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
For the faint of heart, the Arcos da Lapa is a must see during
daylight hours. Antique shops and an outdoor fair provide for pleasant
distractions. If you’re hoping to truly experience the heartbeat
of Rio, however, the area around the aqueduct is the place to be
at night. As the sun sets, the square in front of the Arcos da Lapa
begins to fill with vendors and party-goers and impromptu street
dances. Guitarists wander the cobblestone streets and the samba
Once considered one of Rio’s most dangerous neighborhoods,
Lapa was cleaned up a bit in the 1940’s but fell again into
decay in the 1960’s. The recent revival of the samba, however,
is once more drawing crowds back to the area’s night life.
Although the area is dotted with dark corners and has a bit of a
seedy feel to it, visitors are much safer here now than ever before.
When the music and dancing start, you’ll definitely know you’re
Arcos da Lapa back to Rio-de-Janeiro.info