The Luxembourg Palace (French: Palais du Luxembourg) is located at 15 rue de Vaugirard in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. It was originally built (1615–1645) to the designs of the French architect Salomon de Brosse to be the royal residence of the regent Marie de’ Medici, mother of Louis XIII of France. After the Revolution it was refashioned (1799–1805) by Jean Chalgrin into a legislative building and subsequently greatly enlarged and remodeled (1835–1856) by Alphonse de Gisors. Since 1958 it has been the seat of the French Senate of the Fifth Republic.
The Senate (French: Sénat) is the upper house of the French Parliament, presided over by a president. Indirectly elected by elected officials, it represents territorial collectivities of the Republic and French citizens living abroad. The Senate enjoys less prominence than the lower house, the directly elected National Assembly; debates in the Senate tend to be less tense and generally receive less media coverage.
The Senate is housed inside the Luxembourg Palace in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, and is guarded by Republican Guards. In front of the building lies the Senate’s garden, the Jardin du Luxembourg, open to the public.
Immediately west of the palace on the rue de Vaugirard is the Petit Luxembourg, now the residence of the Senate President; and slightly further west, the Musée du Luxembourg, in the former orangery. On the south side of the palace, the formal Luxembourg Garden presents a 25-hectare green parterre of gravel and lawn populated with statues and large basins of water where children sail model boats.
From 1799 to 1805, the architect Jean Chalgrin transformed the palace into a legislative building. He demolished the grand central staircase (escalier d’honneur), replacing it with a senate chamber on the first floor, which incorporated and destroyed Marie de Médicis’ chapel on the garden side of the corps de logis. Chalgrin also enclosed the flanking terraces, making space for a library. At the same time he created a neo-classical escalier d’honneur in the west wing, a single monumental flight enclosed by an ionic colonnade and covered with a coffered barrel vault, the construction of which resulted in the destruction of the long gallery that had formerly housed the cycle of paintings by Rubens.
Beginning in 1835, the architect Alphonse de Gisors added a new garden wing parallel to the old corps de logis, replicating the look of the original 17th-century facade so precisely that it is difficult to distinguish at first glance the old from the new. The new senate chamber was located in what would have been the courtyard area in-between.
The new wing included a library (bibliothèque) with a cycle of paintings (1845–1847) by Eugène Delacroix. In the 1850s, at the request of Emperor Napoleon III, Gisors created the highly decorated Salle des Conférences (inspired by the Galerie d’Apollon of the Louvre), which influenced the nature of subsequent official interiors of the Second Empire, including those of the Palais Garnier.
The Luxembourg Palace is more like a second home than an official urban palace. His plan is quite characteristic of French castles, like that of Verneuil-en-Halatte to which Salomon de Brosse participated. It consists of a square courtyard, the main courtyard, an entrance body surmounted by a dome, the Tournon dome, and redoubled pavilions in the main building.
Innovations, such as the main building that takes a large scale compared to the two wings, or the monumental central part, mark the castle. The Luxembourg Palace is the result of the free inspiration of the Pitti Palace (Florence, Italy) commissioned by Marie de Medici, who, bored at the Louvre, wanted to rediscover the Florentine spirit and the sweetness that this evoked especially through the the use of the stone boss in the architecture of the building rather than a mixture of brick and stone, as found for example in the hunting lodge of Versailles.
Room of meetings, hemicycle:
When it was decided that the palace would host the Senate, Chalgrin completely rearranged the interior to make the new senatorial hall. Completed in 1807, it became a room of peers under the Restoration, was redrawn in 1836 to meet the need for expansion. The chosen architect, Alphonse de Gisors, a student of Chalgrin, advanced the facade of the building of 31 meters on the garden and arranged in space thus cleared a new hemicycle between 1836 and 1842. The room was rebuilt after a fire in 1859 , always by Gisors.
Behind the president’s tray, facing the seats, stand seven monumental marble statues2, from left to right when we look at the president:
Turgot, controller general of the finances of Louis XVI, by Jean-François Legendre-Héral;
D’Aguesseau, Chancellor of France, by Hippolyte Maindron;
Michel de l’Hôpital, Superintendent of Finance, then Chancellor of France, by Achille Valois;
Colbert, Comptroller General of the Finances of Louis XIV, by Jean Baptiste Joseph De Bay;
Mathieu Mole, Minister of Justice under the Empire and President of the Council under the July Monarchy;
Malesherbes, support of the Encyclopedia and defender of Louis XVI during his trial;
Jean-Etienne-Marie Portalis, one of the editors of the civil code, by Joseph Marius Ramus.
At the two ends of the diameter of the hemicycle are two other statues, ordered in 1840 by the Minister of the Interior Charles de Remusat:
St. Louis, delivered in 1846 by Auguste Dumont;
Charlemagne, delivered in 1847 by Antoine Etex.
Guest Book Room:
The room of the Book of Gold is a vaulted room of the ground floor arranged in 1816 by the architect Baraguay, which was used to receive the Book of Gold of the Pairie, that is to say the name of the visitors illustrious members of the House of Peers. Baraguay reuses woodwork and decorations from other rooms, mainly the apartments of Marie de Medici at the Luxembourg Palace and Anne of Austria at the Louvre. The paintings and woodwork will be resized, redoré, restored and for some largely repainted.
Hidden, then again highlighted, this chapel was designed by the architect Alphonse de Gisors during the campaign of 1837, during the reign of Louis-Philippe. Cloisonné for the construction of offices of the Public-Senate channel in 1982, it regains its original volume since the departure of the parliamentary channel and a restoration campaign is underway. This campaign aims to include the visit to the Heritage Days according to the wishes of the Questeurs.
It is located on the ground floor of the east wing of the main courtyard. Small dimensions (about 23 m by 6 meters). His pictorial decoration was entrusted to the painter François Bouchot, but he died before the launching of the building in 1842. It is finally decorated by murals of Abel de Pujol, at the entrance: God and the Veillards of the Apocalypse, and his pupil Théophile Vauchelet, Prix de Rome 1829; at the apse: The Concert of the Angels; on the ceiling: The Evangelists, as well as four paintings by Jean Gigoux, which were rolled in 1982.
The present reading room of the library was built during the enlargement of the palace of 1837. Alphonse de Gisors, who conducts the work, follows the recommendation of Adolphe Thiers and entrusts the decor of the ceiling to the painter Eugène Delacroix, who then works on the ceiling of the Palais Bourbon library, seat of the other assembly. He finished decorating the dome in 1846. The composition is inspired by the song IV of Dante’s Inferno. The library is now a room in length (52 m by 7 m), extended by two cabinets, east and west, whose seven windows (all south side) overlook the Luxembourg Garden.
Staircase of honor:
The staircase of honor or grand staircase was realized between 1803 and 1807 by the architect Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin who worked at the Luxembourg palace since 1787 and there assured the restoration of the gardens. The staircase replaced the gallery of Rubens.
57 meters long, 10.60 meters wide and 11.60 meters high (15 meters below the dome), this room was designed by Alphonse de Gisors. It results from the meeting (finalized in 1864) of the three rooms of the original building.
In front of the fireplace is the throne occupied by Napoleon I when he attended the sittings of the Conservative Senate.
At each end, there is a ceiling in cul-de-four, with characters from the history of France by Henri Lehmann (1854). To the west, origins to Charlemagne; east of the First Crusade to Louis XV.
On the ceiling, the Age of Peace and the Age of Victory by Adolphe Brune. Eight Gobelin tapestries illustrating Ovid’s Metamorphoses complete the decoration.
Under the French Constitution, the Senate has nearly the same powers as the National Assembly. Bills may be submitted by the administration (projets de loi) or by either house of Parliament (propositions de loi). Because both houses may amend the bill, it may take several readings to reach an agreement between the National Assembly and the Senate. When the Senate and the National Assembly cannot agree on a bill, the administration can decide, after a procedure called commission mixte paritaire, to give the final decision to the National Assembly, whose majority is normally on the government’s side. This does not happen frequently; usually the two houses eventually agree on the bill, or the administration decides to withdraw it. However, this power gives the National Assembly a prominent role in the law-making process, especially since the administration is necessarily of the same side as the Assembly, for the Assembly can dismiss the administration through a motion of censure. The power to pass a vote of censure, or vote of no confidence, is limited. As was the case in the Fourth Republic’s constitution, new cabinets do not have to receive a vote of confidence. Also, a vote of censure can occur only after 10 percent of the members sign a petition; if rejected, those members that signed cannot sign another petition until that session of Parliament has ended. If the petition gets the required support, a vote of censure must gain an absolute majority of all members, not just those voting. If the Assembly and the Senate have politically distinct majorities, the Assembly will in most cases prevail, and open conflict between the two houses is uncommon.
The Senate also serves to monitor the administration’s actions by publishing many reports each year on various topics.