Palace of Versailles, France

The Palace of Versailles, is a royal château in Versailles in the Île-de-France region of France.

Listed for the past 30 years as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Palace of Versailles constitutes one of the finest achievements of French art of the 17th century. The former hunting lodge of Louis XIII was transformed and extended by his son Louis XIV who installed here the Court and the government of France in 1682. Up until the French Revolution, a line of kings succeeded each other, each taking his turn to embellish the Palace.The Hall of Mirrors, the King’s Grand Apartments, the gardens… The Palace of Versailles is one of the most visited cultural sites in the world today.

First built by Louis XIII in 1623, as a hunting lodge of brick and stone, the edifice was enlarged into a royal palace by Louis XIV. The first phase of the expansion (c. 1661–1678) was designed and supervised by the architect Louis Le Vau. It culminated in the addition of three new wings of stone (the enveloppe), which encompassed Louis XIII’s original building on the north, south, and west (the garden side). After Le Vau’s death in 1670, the work was taken over and completed by his assistant François d’Orbay. Charles Le Brun designed and supervised the elaborate interior decoration, and André Le Nôtre landscaped the extensive Gardens of Versailles. Le Brun and Le Nôtre collaborated on the numerous fountains, and Le Brun supervised the design and installation of countless statues.

When the château was built, Versailles was a small village dating from the 11th century; today, however, it is a wealthy suburb of Paris, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) southwest of the centre of the French capital (point zero at square in front of Notre Dame). Versailles was the seat of political power in the Kingdom of France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved the royal court from Paris, until the royal family was forced to return to the capital in October 1789, within three months after the beginning of the French Revolution. Versailles is therefore famous not only as a building, but as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy of the Ancien Régime.

During the second phase of expansion of the mansion (c. 1678–1715), two enormous wings north and south of the wings flanking the Cour Royale (Royal Courtyard) were added by the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart. He also replaced Le Vau’s large terrace, facing the garden on the west, with what became the most famous room of the palace, the Hall of Mirrors. Mansart also built the Petites Écuries and Grandes Écuries (stables) across the Place d’Armes, on the eastern side of the château, and, in 1687, the Grand Trianon, or Trianon de Marbre (Marble Trianon), replacing Le Vau’s 1668 Trianon de Porcelaine in the northern section of the park. Work was sufficiently advanced by 1682, that Louis XIV was able to proclaim Versailles his principal residence and the seat of the government of the Kingdom of France and also to give rooms in the palace to almost all of his courtiers. After the death of his consort Maria Theresa of Spain in 1683, Louis XIV undertook the enlargement and remodeling of the royal apartments in the original part of the palace, the former hunting lodge built by his father. The Royal Chapel of Versailles, located at the south end of the north wing, was begun by Mansart in 1688, and after his death in 1708 completed by his assistant Robert de Cotte in 1710.

The palace that we recognize today was largely completed by the death of Louis XIV in 1715. The eastern facing palace has a U-shaped layout, with the corps de logis and symmetrical advancing secondary wings terminating with the Dufour Pavilion on the south and the Gabriel Pavilion to the north, creating an expansive cour d’honneur known as the Royal Court (Cour Royale). Flanking the Royal Court are two enormous asymmetrical wings that result in a facade of 402 metres in length. Encompassing 67,000 square metres the palace has 700 rooms, more than 2,000 windows, 1,250 fireplaces and 67 staircases.

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