Text and photograph: Antonio Colmenar
Segovia’s aqueduct, with its 167 arches fashioned from the granite stone of the Guadarrama Mountains, is one of the most superb works that the Romans left scattered through their empire, a vast territory that went from the Island of Britannia to the confines of Asia Minor.
The structure of the aqueduct constitutes single blocks without any kind of mortar to bind the stones. In order to do this an ingenious equilibrium of forces were used that seem to challenge the immutable principles of gravity.
Perhaps the least known story surrounding this magnum opus of the 1st or 2nd century is the legend of the serving girl who used to climb, every day, to the very top of the mountain and return with her pitcher full of water. One day, fed up of this daily toil, she made a wish to the Devil, whom she asked to build some means by which she would no longer need to go up and down every morning with her pitcher. One night Lucifer granted her wish, asking for her soul in return if he managed to finish the aqueduct before the cockerel crowed.
The girl agreed and the Devil began to build the aqueduct but the girl regretted her decision. Just as he was about to lay the last stone, the cockerel crowed, meaning the Devil lost his wager and the girl kept her soul. In the gap that remained, the statue of the Virgin of Fuencisla, patroness of the city, stands today.