Wednesday, 22 October 2008

A pie chart at Montady

While we were on holiday in the south of France recently, in the Languedoc, I noticed postcards on sale that appeared to be featuring something that looked like a pie chart. I didn't pay an enormous amount of attention I'm afraid, vaguely registering that it reminded me of the Round Table in Winchester.

On our last day we decided to visit the Oppidum of Ensérune, a pre-Roman village perched on top of a steep hill. We'd tried to find it on a few occasions and failed, but this time we were determined to get there.  It was interesting to see quite such an old and extensive settlement, but to my surprise, when I arrived at the top, it was there that I found my pie chart spreading out before me.

Investigation revealed that it was called l'étang de Montady, the lake of Montady.  The lake?

Apparently there used to be a lake in that area until the 13th century but it was stagnant and thought to be the cause of various epidemics.  In 1247, the archbishop of Narbonne authorised four landowners to drain the area and make it healthy.

They had to construct the 10 ditches or channels converging on the central circular "redondel" which collects all the water and passes into the Malpas Gallery. This underground aqueduct then had to pass under the hill of Ensérune and emerge on the south side.  It took 20 years in all to finish the work.

The upkeep of the system was given to the owners of the plots, the "pointes", and remains with them to this day.  The area covers 430 hectares (1060 acres) and there are about 10 km (6.5 miles) of channels.  It is still farmed today and the shape of the plots has been maintained.

At times, when there is very heavy rain, the area does flood again. It can take several days for the channels to drain the area completely.


  1. Very interesting Story.

    A project that last 20 years! And we get a pie chart as a gift.

    Today, we shouldn't try to change the nature so much, should we?

  2. We went last year on way back from Sète. Was told it was for salt. The oppidum was fabulous, bar heatstroke 42°, spent a lot of time in the museum. Surprisingly the kids were interested in the site, I'd predicted that we'd be getting the "This is boring, can we go yet?".
    Did you visit the canal du midi workings too?

  3. @iwalk, I certainly can't imagine anything like that being allowed to happen these days.

    @j, there was surprisingly little information available, and I didn't come across any mention of salt. That's not to say it wasn't of course.
    There was a bitterly cold wind when we were up on top, so we spent in the museum to keep warm. We didn't get to the canal workings, no. The navigation (me) just wasn't up to the usual standard.

  4. Fascniating information on this. The battle against nature can never win.

  5. Hmm, but I decipher the text using a reverse text generator. Did I did it wrong?

    Oh dear, please advise, a.

  6. Interesting. It does look like a pie chart. And what an engineering feat for such a long time ago. Labor may have been cheaper. :)

  7. Wow, that is amazing! Even though something like that wouldn't happen today, in many ways, it happens far too often. Look at how much land a shopping mall takes up, or even one of these new subdivisions that seem to be going up everywhere. Still, way back then and they were pulling off engineering miracles. Wow.

  8. What an amazing sight. Thanks for sharing and letting us know of its existence, A. :)


Forethoughts, afterthoughts, any thoughts. Tell me.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin