Video: The Seven Locks of Fonserannes
On the Canal du Midi in an elaborate piece of engineering can be experienced up close with a barge cruise holiday. Fonserannes Lock Staircase is a 312-metre long water staircase, allowing boats and barges to negotiate a 25-metre gradient by passing through 6 ovoid lock chambers and 7 gates. The structure was built by Pierre-Paul Riquet, the baron of Bonrepos, who lived from 1609 to 1680.
At the time it was built, the Fonserannes Staircase was considered a technologically advanced masterpiece and even now it is one of the most extraordinary and popular attractions in Languedoc-Roussillon.
The canal has changed little in its 300 years. Now lock gates are steel rather than timber. An aqueduct was built to create a waterway over the River Orb. And a “water slope” was built at Béziers to allow boats to avoid the sixrise staircase. In 1996 the canal was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
The high quality of construction that went into the locks, aqueducts, and buildings is responsible for making the Canal du Midi the oldest canal in Europe still functioning. The canal remains not only functional but of high quality, making it the most popular canal in France.
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