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Canal du Midi, UNESCO World Heritage

The Canal du Midi connects on 240 km Toulouse to the port of Sète. It crosses the Lauragais from the Montesquieu-Lauragais lock (Négra lock) in Haute-Garonne to the Bram lock in the Aude.

The canal du Midi, a whole history...

 

Since Antiquity, the idea of a waterway linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea was envisaged.

The Spanish coastline and the Straits of Gibraltar were thus avoided, the transport of commodities would become faster and safer.

A lot of projects followed one after the other ( during the reigns of François 1st, Henri IV). They had to wait until the seventeenth century, for the reign of Louis XIV and the genius creator, Pierre Paul Riquet so that the idea of the Canal du Midi comes to life.

 

In 1667 began a pharaonic project which would require 40 years of work and 12 000 workers.

The Canal Royal of the Province of Languedoc was inaugurated in 1681. It was renamed “Canal du Midi” in 1789 during the revolution.

 

240 km long, this “marvel of Europe” as Vauban called it, connects Toulouse and the River Garonne, to the port of Sète, crossing 350 fine architectural sites (bridges, tunnels …) including 63 locks.

 

The Canal du Midi was, for two centuries, a very busy communication route, where the boats of commodities crossed those ones for travelers (called “La barque de poste”). Then, the development of the other means of transportation, the train in particular, competed largely with its commercial activities. Today dedicated to boating, the Canal makes walkers and cyclists happy : they are seduced by the beauty and the peace of its banks. The waters of the Canal also irrigate the Lauragais agricultural land.

In 1996, UNESCO inscribed the Canal du Midi on its prestigious list of World Heritage of Humanity as “one of the most extraordinary realizations of the civil engineering world in modern times”

 

LE CANAL DU MIDI IN LAURAGAIS

The Canal du Midi is fed by waters from the Black Mountain, stored in Saint Ferréol lake.

The water then flows into the “Rigole de la Pleine” and arrives at the watershed called “ Le Seuil de Naurouze”.

Seuil de Naurouze is the natural point of division of waters between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s only in the Lauragais Country that you will find this ingenious system.

Pierre-Paul Riquet, creator of the Canal du Midi

Pierre Paul Riquet with his passion and obstinacy are at the origin of the creation of the Canal du Midi.

Born in 1609 in Béziers, nothing predestined Riquet to become the creator of one of the major works of art of the seventeenth century.

After pursuing not particularly bright studies, the eldest son of Guillaume Riquet, a notary and rich businessman from Beziers, he entered the administration of the Salt tax Offices, thanks to the influence of his father.

This unusual but very lucrative job helped him to grow rich quickly. He bought the lordship of the castle, Bonrepos, which was in the neighborhood of Revel. At 57, after making his fortune and comfortably established in his castle, he could have finished his days in peace. But, his desire to build a navigation channel had a greater pull. Neither engineer, nor hydrologist but tenacious and passionate, he embarked on this crazy adventure and spent his whole fortune, sacrificing dowries destined for his daughters. He did not see the completion of the work as he died, exhausted, in October 1680, six months before the end of the works. He was ennobled by Louis XIV, his genius was recognized throughout Europe : his wishes have been fulfilled.

 

 

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