The Canal de Briare – Part 2

 Part 2: Towns & Villages
Along the Briare Canal
The picturesque Canal de Briare, one of the oldest canals in France, connects the valleys of the Seine and the Loire. The Canal de Briare begins just north of Montargis at Buges. The section of the canal between Montargis and Rogny follows the valley of the River Loing. Many of the villages and hamlets date earlier than the origin of the canal.

Montargis is one of the “villes
fleuries”, a designation awarded to towns and villages with fabulous
floral displays. Also known as the “Little Venice of France”, many small
canals dissect this lively and attractive town. The Canal de Briare
wends its way right through the center of Montargis, with its banks
behind the 17th century houses. The town’s museums provide a wealth of
information on local arts and traditions. During the reign of Louis
XIII, a local chef invented a confection made from roasted almonds
covered with sugar, which became known as pralines.
The origins of Montcresson are uncertain, though two relics of an
ancient settlement, a pierced stone and a tumulus (a burial mound),
were found in the vicinity. Within the town itself, there are several
13th century buildings, including the church, castle, and a former
During the construction of the canal in Montbouy, engineers
uncovered the remains of a 2nd century Gallo-Roman bathhouse and an
amphitheater which had a capacity of 4000. The 11th century church has
seen many alterations since its construction, the last being in the 17th
century. The church was added to the list of Historic Monuments in
1967. Originally, there were two locks separated by a little lake, which
were replaced by one lock in 1892. Today, we can still see one of the
old locks without its gates.
Châtillon-Coligny, once known as the town of Châtillon, entered
the ownership of the Coligny family in 1437. Because the four Coligny
sons were Protestant, the town suffered during the Wars of Religion,
which began with overt hostilities in 1562 and lasted until the Edict of
Nantes in 1598. Admiral de Coligny, the chief of the Huguenots, was
murdered in Paris as part of targeted assassinations and a wave of
Catholic mob violence directed against Protestants by order of the
Queen, Catherine de’ Medici, during the Religious Wars, in what was
later called the St-Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. “Une foi, une loi, un
Roi” (one faith, one law, one King) left little room for religious
Musée de Châtillon-Coligny


Châtillon-Coligny retains some of the medieval town atmosphere,
including the original wash houses where inhabitants scrubbed their
washing in the river. A superb 12th century château, built by the Count
of Sancerre, was destroyed in 1799 during the French Revolution. All
that remains are three monumental terraces, the orangerie, and an
impressive sixteen-sided dungeon. 
In modern history, the settlement received some fame in 1903 when Henri
Becquerel won the Nobel Prize for Physics for the discovery of natural
Rogny-les-Sept-Écluses is at the bief de partage,
or watershed, of the Canal de Briare. Here the canal leaves the valley
of the Loing, climbs towards its highest point, crosses a small marshy
plain, and begins the descent to the Loire. Fifteen reservoirs were dug
near Rogny to provide water for this section.
In order to extend the Canal de Briare out of the Loing Valley, it was
necessary to build a linked series of locks. In 1642, the famous seven
lock staircase opened and worked without interruption for two centuries.
On average, the locks passed around 4,000 boats and 200,000 tons of
cargo per year.
In 1880, they replaced the seven locks with the current six Freycinet
gauge locks. Separated about 500 meters from each other, the new locks
bypass the hill. They abandoned the old locks in 1887, as they were too
small and consumed too much water. The seven locks became a historic
monument in 1983. Rogny changed its name to Rogny-les-Sept-Écluses in
1978 to honor its famous monument.
Briare is one of the largest towns in the Loiret and is the town
from which the Canal de Briare takes its name. The town was founded in
the 17th century, relatively modern by French standards, with the
building of the canal. Opposite the commercial port, a series of
buildings and chimneys are all that remain of the tile and button
factory that once occupied the site. The Émaux de Briare, founded in
1837 by the 19th century French business magnate Jean-Félix Bapterosses,
exhibited its wares at the 1851Great Exhibition in London. Still in
operation, though not from Briare, the company sells its mosaics around
the world for large and small projects alike.
Jean-Félix Bapterosses built a château to the north of Briare. Today it
serves as an exhibition center and an artists’ residence. In the center
of the town is the interesting 19th century Romanesque-Byzantine church
dedicated to Saint Stephen. This church is particularly remarkable due
to its beautiful decorations both inside and outside the building, which
were provided by the Émaux de Briare. It was added to the list of
historic monuments in 1987.
Probably the most famous monument in Briare is the aqueduct, built to
allow commercial boat traffic to cross the River Loire in the 1890s.
Until that point, barges had to traverse the Loire River itself. This
was always an issue. In the summer months, the river was too low, and
during the winter, there was too much water. The Loire is one of the
last “wild” rivers left in Europe, and there is almost no commercial
traffic using the river. It is very hard to chart the Loire as sandbanks
are constantly shifting with the current and change position every
year. The only boats that frequently navigate the river are the
traditional, flat-bottomed boats called gabards.

The French engineer Léonce-Abel Mazoyer is credited with the design of
the bridge, while the architect Gustave Eiffel oversaw the design of the
masonry and abutments which the iron work sits on. The bridge is 600
metres long and holds 13,000 tonnes of water.

Besides being functional, the Pont Canal de Briare is recognized as one of the most spectacular works of art on the French waterways.
Châtillon-sur-Loire was first mentioned as a
10th century fortification. In the 16th century, Châtillon was a
Huguenot stronghold during the French Wars of Religion and a Protestant
“temple” in the center of the village was built in 1596. By the 17th
century, it was the most important Protestant community outside Gien. To
control the movement in the village, Louis XIV sent a group of Catholic
priests to oversee religious teachings and to reduce the influence the
group was having over neighboring communities. By 1684, Châtillon
outlawed Protestantism, and the temple was destroyed on orders by the
King. In the 19th century, they imprisoned the Scottish author Robert
Louis Stevenson in Châtillon for several days for being homeless. It is
said he fell in love with a local girl and refused to leave her until
she married him. She wouldn’t and he eventually left for California,
whereupon he found the girl of his dreams.

About The French Hotel Barge Renaissance

has been designed to carry her guests in ultimate luxury along the
Canal de Briare, France’s oldest canal and steeped in history on a
cruise route that features elegant chateaux, small countryside villages,
and the famed wine-growing region of Sancerre.

Cruise Details:

Cruise Highlights:

  • Visit the “time capsule” studio home of 19th century artist Rosa Bonheur and a private lunch in her salon
  • Private “behind-the-scenes” tour of the magnificent Château de Fontainebleau
  • 7-lock flight at Rogny-Les-Sept-Ecluses, a national historic monument
  • Cruise across the aqueduct at Briare, built by Gustave Eiffel over the River Loire
  • Private wine tasting at the renowned Sancerre winery of Henri Bourgeois
  • Excellent opportunities for walking and biking
  • “Biking Plus” option available

Learn More: 

Ready to Explore the Canal de Briare?

Contact Paradise Connections Yacht Charters to book RENAISSANCE
View Renaissance’s online brochure
Visit our website for more info on our barges and barging:

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