The Canal des Deux Mers was not a new idea by Riquet’s time, although he perfected it. The Archbishop of Toulouse headed a special commission chartered by King Henry IV (1553-1610) to study feasibility of a canal linking the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Henry IV was following a line of similar visionaries. Even Charlemagne wanted to build the canal. There is evidence of ancient Roman emperors trying to engineer the route. Charlemagne, to be fair, didn’t have the technology. But Riquet was able to conquer a rocky patch near Beziers by blasting a tunnel – measuring 157 meters (515 feet) long, 6.7 meters (22 feet) wide and 8 meters (27 feet) high – with black powder. It was one of the earliest uses of explosives in subterranean construction.
Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.