planete-tp : All about public works

The Canal du Midi

Published on 30 January 2008
On the Canal du Midi, the dam of Saint-Ferréol
On the Canal du Midi, the dam of Saint-Ferréol
(R.R)
.... and the lock of Montgiscard.
.... and the lock of Montgiscard.
(R.R. VNF/South West direction for both illustrations)

 

The Canal du Midi, linking Toulouse and Sète over 250 kilometres or so, was constructed between 1666 and 1681 under the reign of Louis the XIVth. Its construction, under the direction of Colbert, marks the beginnings of what was to become large structure engineering.

The installation project has been planned since the Renaissance, but came to a halt up against the supply of water to the summit reach. It was Pierre Paul Riquet who, in 1662, provided the solution by suggesting diverting several rivers of the Montagne Noire (Black Mountain).

Since then, various installations have been built, including, above all, the construction of a single reservoir of exceptional dimensions for the time at Saint-Ferréol. The forerunner of the great French dams, this structure was built between 1668 and 1675, reaching 30 metres in height. In 1686-1687, it was heightened by 6 metres on the instructions of Vauban. At 36 metres in height, the dam of Saint-Ferréol remained for three centuries the highest structure in the world.

The Canal du Midi has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.