Architect and military engineer, Carlos Luís Ferreira da Cruz Amarante was born in Braga on 30 October 1748. He was the son of Manuel Ferreira da Cruz Amarante, chamber musician of the Braga archbishops D. José de Bragança (1739-1756) and D. Gaspar de Bragança (1757-1789), and of D. Maria Josefa Rosa de Almeida.
He entered the Seminar at the age of seventeen, but the lack of vocation made him change the religious life for the illustration of books and music teaching.
In 1771, he married Luísa Clara Xavier, who bore him four children. Two years later, he was appointed Inspector of Public Works of Braga. In 1783, Carlos Amarante was appointed caretaker of the Archbishop D. Gaspar de Bragança, which allowed him to move about the Archbishop’s Palace and its library, where he became a self-taught architect.
His early architectural works were executed in Braga. Among them are the homes of Dr. Francisco Maciel Aranha and of the Vilhena Coutinho family, as well as the presbytery of S. Pedro de Maximinos. After completing these works, he received commissions for more demanding works, soon making him one of the most important architects of Braga in the 18th century. He designed the project for the new temple of the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte (1784-1811), in 1781, as well as the garden, the chapels, the fountain of the terrace Terreiro de Moisés and the staircase Escadório das Virtudes. These works reveal his Neo-Classical style as an architect, although in other projects he used Baroque and Rococo elements, for example on the façade of the Nossa Senhora do Pópulo Church and S. Marcos Hospital, both located in Braga.
The death of his patron led Carlos Amarante to begin a military career at the age of 45. Around 1792, he was appointed second-lieutenant of the Royal Corps of Engineers, a post that forced him to leave Braga. At that time, he was responsible for designing the "Topographic map from Serra de Rio Maior until Leiria". In 1796, he was promoted to the rank of first-lieutenant, and from 1799 on he was in charge of "directing the building of roads and bridges in the kingdom".
In 1801, Carlos Amarante rose to the rank of captain of the Royal Corps of Engineers and was ordered by Francisco de Almada e Mendonça to work in the final phase of the urban transformation of Porto. In this city, where he settled to live, he designed in 1802 a single arch masonry bridge, to link the two banks of the Douro River, between Porta do Sol, in Porto, and the terrace of the Monastery of Serra do Pilar, in Vila Nova de Gaia. This project was turned down in favour of the Ponte das Barcas project, dated 1806. In 1812, Carlos Amarante was removed from the Royal Corps of Engineers, due to the reform of the Military Engineering.
In Porto, he assumed himself as a Neo-Classical architect, having left several works in this style, such as the Church of S. José das Taipas (1795-1878), in Cordoaria, whose original draft was changed particularly with respect to the sacristy and the altar-piece, which has a painting depicting the disaster of Ponte das Barcas; the Church of Ordem Terceira da Trindade (1803), in the Laranjal Square, later renamed Trindade Square, whose original plan, offered by the author, was amended by architect João Francisco Guimarães; and the Royal Academy of Maritime and Trade Affairs, whose original plans by José da Costa e Silva, dated 1803, were amended by Carlos Amarante in 1807. He also planned the Royal Army Arsenal, which was never built.
Carlos Amarante, a versatile artist, whose work lies in the transition from the Baroque style to the Neo-Classical style, died in Porto on 22 January 1815, and was buried in the Celestial Church of Ordem Terceira da Santíssima Trindade.
Reportedly, in 1837, the remains of the artist were deposited in the general ossuary of the Ordem da Trindade, in Agramonte Cemetery because no-one claimed his remains.