Mestre Valentim Fountain

The Mestre Valentim Fountain was installed in Largo do Paço to substitute the fountain built by the Portuguese engineer, José Fernandes Pinto Alpoim in about 1747. It was inaugurated in 1789. Some of the material from the previous construction was reused, for example the stonework.

Thierry Frères (a partir de Jean-Baptiste Debret) Vista da Praça do Palácio – 1839. No centro da imagem, o chafariz do mestre Valentim

One of the symbols of Rio de Janeiro’s Baroque style, the Mestre Valentim Fountain was built on two overlapping solid geometrical shapes: the lower part, the ´body´ is in the shape of a prism with rounded edges; above it, on a platform, there is a pyramidal form. For this reason, it is also known as the Pyramid Fountain.

Chafariz do Mestre Valentim; ao fundo, lateral do Mercado da Praia do Peixe – 1870 c. Instituto Moreira Salles

The prism is surrounded by a balustrade – a kind of railing, made of stone – which served as a guardrail for people climbing to the top, using a staircase inside the fountain. The predominant stone in the construction is granite, which is quite common in historical buildings in Rio, and some details of the stonework are made of white gneiss, contrasting with the grey stone.

O corpo prismal, o topo piramidal e os detalhes do chafariz. Imagem: Carlos Luís da Cruz/IPatrimônio

As this is an 18th-century work, a period when Brazil was a Portuguese colony there are elements of the fountain that refer to the Portuguese crown. One of them is the armillary sphere located at the top of the pyramid. This was an essential instrument and symbol of Portuguese nautical technology during the Age of Discovery. The armillary sphere became a significant part of the Portuguese coat of arms in the 15th century and it can be seen in various constructions throughout the city. Even today, the armillary sphere is a component of the coat of arms of Rio de Janeiro.

The construction of fountains in Rio, centuries ago, was a solution for the longstanding problem of water supply. As well as being located in one of the principal ports of the colonial period, (at that time the sea came up to the steps of the fountain), the Mestre Valentim fountain also channelled water from the Carioca Aqueduct (Lapa Arches) which reached the spouts on the sides of the construction, as highlighted in the picture.

Johann Jacob Steinmann, Largo do Paço – 1839. À direita, indicadas pela seta, estão as bicas do chafariz. Pinacoteca do estado de São Paulo


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