Friday Photo: the Etang de Montady

In the modern imagination, it is often the Romans, rather than mediaeval peoples, who are remembered for their skills in engineering and civic architecture, from their great aqueducts and bridges to their ruler-straight roads. Among the fields of southern France, however, is a reminder of the ingenuity and willpower of the region’s mediaeval residents called the Etang de Montady. In the 12th century, the area was a swampy freshwater wetlands with a lake at the centre. During the following century, however, a series of radially placed drainage canals were installed by monks so that the lake could be emptied and reclaimed for farmland. Today, the edges of this substantial engineering project can be traced by the system of wedge-shaped fields first planted in the Middle Ages that have retained their boundaries until today.

3 thoughts on “Friday Photo: the Etang de Montady

  1. Tremendous photo. Your remarks also make me think of the centuries of reclamation, beginning in medieval times at least, which have been given to rendering both safe and arable the entire Frisian coast, from the present-day Netherlands all the way to Denmark. I don’t know what role monasteries may have played in this at any point, but the question intrigues me.

    • Thanks! I’m not sure about the involvement of monasteries in the Frisian coast specifically, but all across Europe they were certainly very influential as engines of economic development. Partly this was a result of their own need to trade goods like wool or crops which they could make themselves for necessities like wine and wax for candles in their churches. Placing monasteries near borders was also an effective way of delimiting influence and encouraging the clearing of new land, so I’d be very surprised if they played no role like this in Northern Europe. Their influence, of course, couldn’t have started before the spread of Christianity, but I see no reason to doubt their potential involvement after this.

      Thanks for the interesting thoughts!

  2. Pingback: Light Upon Light: Abbot Suger and the Invention of Gothic | mediaevalmusings

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