AN AMAZING FACT: A 60-year-old man of genius, Pierre-Paul de Riquet began the grandest project of his life when most his age are thinking retirement. In the 17th century, the intrepid French engineer conceived the idea of constructing a canal across France from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. Since the government refused to share the cost of the gigantic enterprise, he assumed the enormous project himself.
Riquet’s design called for a canal that traveled uphill to a point and then downhill the other way, like crossing a bridge, whereas most canals of the day simply descended. This design would serve to save time and help ships avoid pirates lurking along the straits of Gibraltar. It would also join the economies of the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. With shovels and primitive tools, 12,000 laborers worked 14 years from 1666 to 1681 to create the incredibly long trench.
During its construction, Pierre-Paul Riquet oversaw the entire project. The 79-foot-wide passageway with its 8-foot depth, 228 bridges, and 114 locks, gradually lifted water 621 feet and then back down to the level of the Atlantic. This feat beckoned the amazement and the admiration of all Europe. King Louis XIV referred to it as the greatest achievement of his entire 72-year reign.
This purely civil project was paid for by the money of one man—158 miles costing $68 million. It came from his fortune earned as the salt-tax collector. He sacrificed everything to ensure the canal’s completion—even using his wife’s fortune and his daughters’ dowries for the cause. Six months before its completion, Riquet, exhausted and sick, retired at home and died without ever seeing his life’s masterpiece achieved.
The Bible describes the Lord’s power with these words: “By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation, You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, And of the far-off seas” (Psalm 65:5). Just as Riquet gave his life to open a waterway that brought strength to France through his famous canal, so Jesus performed an awesome deed when He gave His life to bridge the gap between heaven and earth.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? John 14:5Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6