Pierre Paul Riquet

Pierre Paul Riquet, baron of Bonrepos, is a farmer-general des Gabelles and a French contractor. Entrepreneur and lawyer, he is especially well known for the construction of the Canal du Midi.

A rich and ambitious man

The French engineer is born on June 29th 1609 in Béziers and grew up in a family of notables and traders. He started his studies in the Jesuit secondary school of Béziers and continued to become engineer. His father, Guillaume Riquet, prosecutor in Béziers sit in the states of Languedoc assembly and encouraged his son to enter in the administration of Gabelles, the tax on salt in 1630-1632. He progressively climbed the ladder to become « gabelou » (agent of the Gabelles), « grenatier », « sous-fermier »,  then farmer and finally take the head of the Farm of Languedoc in 1678.

Riquet is an entrepreneur. He rapidly became rich being a tax collector and private banker as well. He purchased the fort of Bonrepos, near Toulouse, and became Baron of Bonrepos. Pierre Paul Riquet also threw himself into many projects but he is especially famous for his spectacular construction of the Canal du Midi.
In 1637, Paul Riquet got married to Catherine de Milhaud with whom he had five children: Jean-Mathias, Pierre-Paul, Catherine, Marthe and Anne Riquet.

The project of an entire life

As a tax collector, Pierre Paul Riquet is worried by the materials conveyance between Toulouse and the Mediterranean Sea. As the trade routes are in bad conditions, using inland navigation seems to be a perfect solution for the country but also for his personal business. Indeed, such a solution could be a good way to sell and transport salt more easily.

He developed and planned his project in order to present it to Louis XIV and his minister Colbert, pointing out the strategic and financial benefits. To convince them, Pierre Paul Riquet used his relationship with the archbishop of Toulouse, Monseigneur d’Anglure de Bourlemont, president of the states of Languedoc and close friend of Colbert. Indeed, he invited him to his castle in Bonrepos and presented a model of his project. Convinced, the archbishop encouraged Colbert to meet Paul Riquet. The French engineer finally won the king and Colbert’s hearts who financed the feasibility studies.
The construction of the Canal du Midi started in 1667, Pierre Paul Riquet is 57 years old. The total cost of this project is very high, about 17-18 millions of old French pounds, the second biggest work site in France after the Château de Versailles. The engineer invested all his personal fortune, about 2 millions of old French pounds, and got into debt to finance his project. However, he sees in the Canal du Midi, a source of enrichment through the canal toll.
Riquet’s daring wasn’t only technical. The way he managed thousands of workers shows a social avant-gardism. Indeed, to keep his 12 000 workers and make them work faster, for the first time in France, a salary and a social security system is set up. In this way, workers continue to be paid even during the rainy days or in case of diseases.
Pierre Paul Riquet died in Octobre 1680, only eight months before the end of the construction. His sons continued his work and finished what their father had started, to engrave the name of Riquet in French history.

Riquet in Paraza

Still today, the Château de Paraza has the mark of the Riquet family. In 1620, Guillaume Riquet, Paul’s father, arrived at the Château and during the next decades, Pierre Paul himself stayed in this beautiful place in order to oversee the project. When he finally left, to thank for the hospitality, he supported the wedding between his daughter and the son of the owner, the Seigneur de la Jougla. He also required the construction of seven successive patios that go down directly to the canal, where magnificent hanging gardens were fitted out.

Nowadays, thanks to the Danglas family and what they have already realized in the superb place, you will get the opportunity to work in the engineer’s steps but also to sleep in his sheets. The Riquet suite and four other rooms are available and waiting for you here.