The canal du midi – an architectural masterpiece
Constructed in the 17th century under the reign of Louis XIV, the Canal du Midi is the master work of the engineer Pierre-Paul Riquet, who defied the laws of nature to create a navigable canal between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
In 1660, the project was presented to the influential King’s minister Colbert, who estimated that the canal would be the perfect alternative to the straits of Gibraltar, which were controlled by the Spanish, and would allow the development of water-borne commerce in the Languedoc and at the same time reinforce the King’s influence.
After 6 years of setbacks and internecine quarrels, the project at last saw the day and a royal edict was signed in 1666.
The first stone was laid in 1667 and the immense construction project began: 12,000 workmen, 350 infrastructures (bridges, ports, quaysides, locks, aqueducts, tunnels…), 45,000 trees planted along the water’s edge and 15 long years of labor to culminate in an unprecedented work.