History of the Canal du Midi

The Canal du Midi – the legacy of Baron Richet

Since ancient times, the rulers of France have dreamed of connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea with a navigable canal. Such a waterway would have enabled the direct transport of goods to the Mediterranean, bypassing the circuitous route through the Strait of Gibraltar. The Languedoc or Southern Canal (Canal du Midi) was built between 1667-94. Its creator was Baron Riquet of Beziers. This […]

The Languedoc or Southern Canal (Canal du Midi)

The Languedoc or Southern Canal (Canal du Midi)

Since ancient times, the rulers of France have dreamed of connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea by a navigable canal. Such a waterway would make it possible to transport goods directly to the Mediterranean, bypassing the circuitous route through the Strait of Gibraltar.

The Languedoc or Southern Canal (Canal du Midi) was built between 1667-94. Its creator was Baron Riquet of Beziers. This man succeeded in realizing the project, which before him everybody considered as Utopia.

The Languedoc or Southern Canal (Canal du Midi)

The Languedoc or Southern Canal (Canal du Midi)

Pierre-Paul Riquet, who served for many years as a salt inspector in the Languedoc, knew the province well, its landscape and its economic needs. In 1662, he retired and focused on the idea of building a canal. Riquet invested years of savings, all his energy, and his talent as an engineer in the project.

The Languedoc or Southern Canal (Canal du Midi)

The Languedoc or Southern Canal (Canal du Midi)

The preparatory work and construction of the first phase of the canal from Toulouse to Tribe was carried out from 1661 at the expense of Baron Ricquet. King Louis XIV only signed a decree allocating funds from the state treasury in 1666.

The Languedoc or Southern Canal (Canal du Midi)

The Languedoc or Southern Canal (Canal du Midi)

In 1667, the construction of the enormous St. Ferreoland reservoir began. In the summer of 1668, construction began on the second phase: the Tribe-Etan. About 350 different hydraulic structures were built along the entire length of the canal: locks, bridges and dams. When the canal became hilly, the Malpas Tunnel was dug more than 170 m long. Fifteen thousand workers were at work on the construction of this enormous hydraulic engineering works. Riquet personally supervised the work for 12 years. When the sea was only two miles away, the engineer died.

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The Languedoc or Southern Canal (Canal du Midi)

The Languedoc or Southern Canal (Canal du Midi)

The Canal du Midi was opened on May 24, 1681. Its original length was 240 km (now the entire network is 360 km, due to additional shipping lanes). Canal du Midi is the oldest of the European canals. For 200 years it served for cargo transportation. In the 70s of the XX century, cargo shipping was discontinued. Now only private small ships and tourist boats move along it.

In Toulouse, a monument to Pierre-Paul Ricke has been erected by grateful compatriots. In 1996, the Canal du Midi was included in the list of UNESCO.

The Languedoc or Southern Canal (Canal du Midi)

The Languedoc or Southern Canal (Canal du Midi)

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