The Artificio de Juanelo  (

Artificio de Juanelo

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2024-04-02 18:00:05

The Artificio de Juanelo ("Gianello's artifice") was the name of two devices built in Toledo in the 16th century by Juanelo Turriano. They were designed to supply the city with a source of readily available water by lifting it from the Tagus (Tajo ) river to the Alcázar. Now in ruins, the precise details of the operation of the devices are unknown, but at the time they were considered engineering wonders.

Juanelo Turriano, an Italian-Spanish clock maker, engineer and mathematician, was called to Spain in 1529 and appointed Court Clock Master by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. By 1534 he was working in Toledo, then the capital of the Spanish Empire. Both the Roman aqueduct that had originally supplied the city with water and a giant water wheel constructed by the Moors during the time of the Caliphate of Córdoba had been destroyed and various attempts to supply the demands of the growing city with water by employing the technologies of the time had failed. When Turriano arrived in Toledo, asses were being used to transport pitchers of water from the river to the city. This involved a climb of about 100 metres (330 ft) over uneven ground and was highly inefficient.

Sometime after his arrival in Toledo, Turriano was challenged by Alfonso de Avalos, Marqués de Vasto, to provide a method of transporting water from the Tagus to supply the city. Turriano produced detailed plans for the device but various stoppages and obstacles hindered the construction, among which was the death of Charles V in 1558. Although his successor, Philip II was not as interested in engineering as his father had been and the prestige that Turriano had enjoyed under Charles diminished under his son, Philip nevertheless recognized the value of Turriano, named him Matemático Mayor and employed him on various engineering projects. Although it appears that at times the construction of the water lifting device may have been abandoned, by 1565 Turriano had managed to re-exert his control over the project and contracted with the city council to provide water to the amount of 1,600 pitchers daily (which amounted to around 12,400 litres (3,275 US gallons)) to the city on a permanent basis within three years.

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