Friday, June 25, 2010

Louis XIV's Magnificent Machine at Marley

Louis the XIV, the self-proclaimed "Sun King", had a passion for art and architecture.  While he was building up the fantastic palace at Versailles, he became keenly aware that there was not enough available water for his fantastic vision.  In fact, the Sun King needed almost as much water for his pools and fountains every day as all of the people of Paris needed to drink to live.  He challenged his architects and engineers to bring water from the Seine, which flowed some 3 miles north and almost 500 feet below the level of the Palace.

It reportedly took over 8 years to build the machine constructed by a company of over 700 men, but eventually it was completed in 1684.  In a series of three steps, the pumping machine lifted the water from the river Seine nearly 500 feet into an aqueduct that flowed 3 miles south and provided sufficient water pressure for the massive pools and fountains in the parks surrounding Versailles.  Interestingly though, there was no running water inside the palace at all.

The machine continued to work for more than a century.  It was a marvel of 17th century engineering and was visited by many, just as the Hoover Dam is today.  Unfortunately the machine broke down often and was finally shut down in 1817.  When it did work, the machine could pump about a million gallons of water in 24 hours time.  Sadly, it does not survive until this day.

Here is a painting of the machine from 1723:

You can learn more about this wonderful machine at

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