You might have noticed this old stones aqueduct in the Conseil régional PACA building, opposite to the Porte d’Aix, and wondered what it could be. Let’s go back in time together to discover its identity…
This is an arch from the 13th Century that rises in the middle of the city’s modern buildings. The last vestige of an aqueduct dear to the Marseillais as it provided water to the city (with the river Huveaune coming from East Marseille hills).
Until 1849 – when the Durance waters were set up in the Palais Longchamp -, most of our water was coming from l’Huveaune, that is to say 380 wells dispatched in the city. Marseille was small at this time, like the actual centre.
An 800 years old aqueduct
The aqueduct was built in the 13th Century when wells couldn’t supply a fast growing population anymore. It drove waters of diverse sources from the area of La Pomme, East Marseille, to the heart of the city. It became obsolete in 1849 and its canal was filled to allow new installations.
The aqueduct had underground and open air parts. Its underground route, from la Pomme to Le Panier going through rue Bernard-du-Bois, remains a mystery. Expert think the aqueduct extended from East to the city’s fortification, “la Butte des Carmes” zone, destroyed in the 20th Century.
According to the Inrap (the Archaeological research Institute), on ancient illustrations (plan of Ercole Negri, 1591, and plan Maretz, after 1644), one of the open air sections can be seen outside of the fortification, coming from the East countryside.
Another section is well known thanks to Joseph-Martin Marchand illustration (1826), it allowed the crossing of Sainte-Barbe small valley. Sadly, it was destroyed in the 19th Century because it blocked the traffic roads. A vestige remains visible, a broken arch on la Butte des Carmes North-East side, located place Jules Guesde. It could not be dated…