Négra lock is still a key part of the dynamic tourism industry along the Canal du Midi.
The 'barque de poste' goes hand-in-hand with the history of the Canal du Midi. From the moment the canal opened to navigation in 1681, Pierre-Paul Riquet came up with this passenger transport service (also used for mail within the canal administration) to avoid the difficult, rocky routes through Languedoc.
The journey from Toulouse to Agde took four days. The 'barque de poste' barge was pulled along by horses on the towpaths. To save time, passengers would switch to another barge at each lock, meaning that 40 'barques de poste' were needed to cover the 240 km Canal du Midi route.
Along the way, the 'barque de poste' would make stops for the so-called 'dînées' (lunchtime meals) and 'couchées' (evening meals and overnight stays). That is why there are so many inns, chapels and stables along the Canal du Midi!
The village of Négra was the first stop for the 'barque de poste' on the Toulouse-Sète journey. Négra bears witness to the overwhelming activity of the past, with a chapel, stables and former lodgings!
Négra lock is around thirty kilometres from Toulouse and was where travellers would stop for the 'dînée' (lunch). While passengers were enjoying their lunch and just enjoying this stopover, the horses would be replaced.
Did you know?
In 1834, the Compagnie du Canal du Midi increased the speed of the 'barques de poste'. The lunchtime and evening stopovers were therefore removed. In 1857, the 'barque de poste' service was abandoned completely when the Toulouse-Sète railroad opened.
The 'barque de poste' departed very early in the morning and so some passengers did not have time to go to church beforehand. In 1692, Pierre-Paul Riquet's eldest son had a chapel built at Négra lock. It was reserved for 'barque de poste' passengers only. Mass was held there every Sunday, on public holidays and also whenever passengers requested.
As well as Négra chapel, there are six other chapels along the Canal du Midi. You can easily recognise them because at the entrance to these places of worship, there is always a tribute to Notre-Dame des-Eaux, 'Queen of the boatmen'.
This aqueduct is also known as Thésauque aqueduct, named after the little stream it straddles. There is a bridge alongside it and you can't miss the red brick structure.
Négra aqueduct provided access from the basin to the towpath for horses or donkeys and their riders.
The site including Négra lock and aqueduct is classified as a Historic Monument.
On the right banks are the offices for the Négra branch of Voies Navigables de France. The team there is in charge of the section of the Canal du Midi between Emborel lock and Castanet lock, so 11 locks altogether. Eight of them are automatic and the other three are mechanically operated locks.
If you stop off in the village of Négra, there are picnic tables available to use, making it an easy place to stop for a bite to eat.
Less than a kilometre from Négra is the village of Montesquieu-Lauragais. If you have time to go there, we highly recommend it! Perched up on the hills overlooking the Lauragais plain, you can admire the beautiful architecture that is so characteristic of the Toulouse region. Montesquieu-Lauragais became a stronghold thanks to woad crops, and from 1610 was the main town of the diocese of Toulouse. While you're there, take the time to admire the Gothic-style church and remarkable wall-belfry that dates back to the 14th century!