Canal du Midi (1996)

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France 1944. Coat of Arms of Languedoc.

This 360-km network of navigable waterways linking the Mediterranean and the Atlantic through 328 structures (locks, aqueducts, bridges, tunnels, etc.) is one of the most remarkable feats of civil engineering in modern times. Built between 1667 and 1694, it paved the way for the Industrial Revolution. The care that its creator, Pierre-Paul Riquet, took in the design and the way it blends with its surroundings turned a technical achievement into a work of art. 
  • France 1944. Coat of Arms of Languedoc, the "homeland" of the canal. 

The Canal has 103 locks which serve to climb and descend a total of 190 meters. The Canal has 328 structures, including not only the locks but also bridges, dams and a tunnel. At the town of Béziers the Canal crosses over the river Orb, where a pont-canal (bridge canal) was built. 

No postage stamps have been issued directly related to the Canal, but the stamps below give an idea of the cities located along (or in the vicinity of) the canal, and the surrounding landscape

France 1968. City of Beziers with the bridge canal in the front, and the cathedral on the hill behind. France 1947. Toulouse and the cathedrale de St. Sermain. France 1958. City of Sète
On its flow through the landscape of Languedoc, the canal passes by the Historic City of Carcassonne, which is a World Heritage site in its own right. 
  • France 2000. Carcassonne. 

The design of the Canal includes the first canal passage ever built through a tunnel (the Malpas tunnel).

 The Canal du Midi passes through a passage 173 meters long under a hill at Enserune. The Canal also involved building the first artificial reservoir for feeding a canal waterway — a massive dam, 700 meters long, 30 meters above the riverbed and 120 meters thick at its base, which was built by the labor of hundreds of local women carrying soil in baskets. The construction of the Canal du Midi was considered by people in the 17th century as the biggest project of the day. Even today it is seen as a marvellous engineering accomplishment.

Many thanks to Claude Chassagne (France) for all inspiration, help, and advice. 

Sources and links: 

Other World Heritage Sites in France (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section France for further information on the individual properties.  

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Revised 09 sep 2007  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
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