Palace of Versailles
|Palace of Versailles|
|Château de Versailles|
Aerial view of the Palace from above the Gardens of Versailles
Location within Île-de-France
|Floor area||67,000 m2 (721,182 ft2)|
|Official site of the Chateau de Versailles|
|Official name||Palace and Park of Versailles|
|Criteria||i, ii, vi|
|Designated||1979 (3rd session)|
The Palace of Versailles, or simply Versailles (English // vair-SY or // vər-SY; French: [vɛʁsaj]), is a royal château in Versailles in the Île-de-France region of France. It is also known as the Château de Versailles.
When the château was built, Versailles was a country village; today, however, it is a wealthy suburb of Paris, some 20 kilometres southwest of the French capital. The court of Versailles was the centre of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris, until the royal family was forced to return to the capital in October 1789 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.
- 1 Architectural history
- 2 Current use
- 3 Features
- 3.1 Grands appartements (State Apartments)
- 3.2 Appartement du roi (King's Apartment)
- 3.3 Petit appartement du roi (King's Private Apartment)
- 3.4 Petit appartement de la reine (Queen's Private Apartment)
- 3.5 Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors)
- 3.6 Chapels of Versailles
- 3.7 Royal Opera
- 3.8 Museum of the History of France
- 4 Gardens of Versailles
- 5 Subsidiary structures
- 6 Cost
- 7 Social history
- 8 Treaties and proclamations
- 9 In popular culture
- 10 Images of Versailles
- 11 See also
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
- 14 External links
Begun by Louis XIII in 1623, the château began as a hunting lodge in brick and stone. It was expanded 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 surrounded 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.
During the second phase of expansion (c. 1678–1715), two enormous wings north and south of the wings flanking the Royal Court (Cour Royale) of the main château were added by the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart. He also replaced Le Vau's large terrace on the west (garden) front with what became the most famous room of the palace, the Hall of Mirrors. Mansart also built the Petites and Grandes Écuries (stables) on the opposite (east) side of the Place d'Armes in front of the palace and the château known as the Grand Trianon (or Marble Trianon), replacing Le Vau's 1668 Trianon de Porcelaine in the northern section of the palace park. Work was sufficiently advanced by 1682, that Louis XIV was able to proclaim Versailles his principal residence and the governmental center of France, and 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 oldest part of the palace, the château 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.
In 1738 Louis XV remodeled the king's petit appartement on the north side of the Cour de Marbre (Marble Court), originally the entrance court of the old château, and built a pavilion in the palace park, the Petit Trianon, designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel and completed in 1768. At the north end of the north wing, Gabriel also built a theatre, the Opéra, completed in 1770, for the marriage of the Dauphin (the future Louis XVI) and Marie Antoinette. After he became king, they made only a few changes to the main palace, primarily to their private apartments. However, Louis XVI gave Marie Antoinette the Petit Trianon, where she made extensive changes to the interior, as well as its gardens, including adding her private Théâtre de la Reine and the Hameau.
Following the Revolution and the fall of the monarchy, Versailles fell into disrepair and most of the furniture was sold. Some restoration work was undertaken by Napoleon in 1810 and Louis XVIII in 1820, but the principal effort to restore and maintain Versailles was initiated by Louis-Philippe in 1833, when he changed the palace to a museum dedicated to French history. Among the rooms created during this period, one of the most famous is the Hall of Battles (Galerie des Batailles) on the main floor of the south wing.
Tourist attraction and art exhibition site
The Public Establishment of the Palace, Museum and National Estate of Versailles, a French établissement public à caractère administratif, and Château de Versailles Spectacles organized a Versailles exhibition of the modern art of Jeff Koons in 2008. Six of the works on display came from "the vast private collection of François Pinault, France's wealthiest art collector."
In 2008, official Versailles figures stated that nearly five million people visit the château, and 8 to 10 million walk in the gardens, every year.
Political and ceremonial functions
The palace, however, still serves political functions. Heads of state are regaled in the Hall of Mirrors; the bicameral French Parliament—consisting of the Senate (Sénat) and the National Assembly (Assemblée nationale)—meet in joint session (a congress of the French Parliament) in Versailles to revise or otherwise amend the French Constitution, a tradition that came into effect with the promulgation of the 1875 Constitution. For example, the Parliament met in joint session at Versailles to pass constitutional amendments in June 1999 (for domestic applicability of International Criminal Court decisions and for gender equality in candidate lists); January 2000 (ratifying the Treaty of Amsterdam), and in March 2003 (specifying the "decentralized organization" of the French Republic).
Following the November 2015 Paris attacks, President Francois Hollande gave a speech before a rare joint session of parliament at the Palace of Versailles. This was the third time since 1848 that a French president addressed a joint session of the French Parliament at Versailles. In 2009, President Nicolas Sarkozy addressed the global financial crisis before a congress in Versailles, the first time that this had been done since 1848, when Charles-Louis Napoleon Bonaparte gave an address before the French Second Republic.
Grands appartements (State Apartments)
As a result of Le Vau's enveloppe of Louis XIII's château, the king and the queen had new apartments in the new addition, known at the time as the château neuf. The grands appartements (Grand Apartments, also referred to as the State Apartments) are known respectively as the grand appartement du roi and the grand appartement de la reine. They occupied the main or principal floor of the château neuf, with three rooms in each apartment facing the garden to the west, and four facing the garden parterres to the north and south, respectively. Le Vau's design for the state apartments closely followed Italian models of the day, as evidenced by the placement of the apartments on the next floor up from the ground level—the piano nobile—a convention the architect borrowed from 16th- and 17th-century Italian palace design.
The king's apartment consisted of an enfilade of seven rooms, each dedicated to one of the then known planets and their associated titular Roman deity. The queen's apartment formed a parallel enfilade with that of the grand appartement du roi. It served as the residence of three queens of France—Marie-Thérèse d'Autriche, wife of Louis XIV, Marie Leczinska, wife of Louis XV, and Marie-Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI. Additionally, Louis XIV's granddaughter-in-law, Princess Marie-Adélaïde of Savoy, as duchesse de Bourgogne, occupied these rooms from 1697 (the year of her marriage) to her death in 1712.[a] After the addition of the Hall of Mirrors (1678–1684) the king's appartement was reduced to five rooms (until the reign of Louis XV, when two more rooms were added) and the queen's to four.
Appartement du roi (King's Apartment)
The appartement du roi is a suite of rooms originally set aside for the personal use of Louis XIV in 1683. His successors, Louis XV and Louis XVI, used these rooms for such ceremonies as the lever and the coucher.
Petit appartement du roi (King's Private Apartment)
The petit appartement du roi is a suite of rooms that were reserved for the private use of the king. Occupying the site on which rooms were originally arranged for Louis XIII on the first floor of the château, the space was radically modified by Louis XIV. His successors, Louis XV and Louis XVI drastically modified and remodeled these rooms for their personal use.
Petit appartement de la reine (Queen's Private Apartment)
The petit appartement de la reine is a suite of rooms that were reserved for the personal use of the queen. Originally arranged for the use of the Marie-Thérèse, consort of Louis XIV, the rooms were later modified for use by Marie Leszczyńska and finally for Marie-Antoinette.
Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors)
The galerie des glaces (Hall of Mirrors in English), is perhaps the most celebrated room in the château of Versailles. Setting for many of the ceremonies of the French Court during the Ancien Régime, the galerie des glaces has also inspired numerous copies and renditions throughout the world.
The room begun construction in 1678.
Chapels of Versailles
In the evolution of the château of Versailles, there have been five chapels. The current chapel, which was the last major building project of Louis XIV, represents one of the finest examples of French Baroque architecture and ecclesiastical decoration.
The Royal Opera (Opéra Royal) was perhaps the most ambitious building project of Louis XV for the château of Versailles. Completed in 1770, the Opéra was inaugurated as part of the wedding festivities of Louis XV's grandson, later Louis XVI, and Marie-Antoinette.
Museum of the History of France
In the 19th century the "Museum of the History of France" was founded in Versailles, at the behest of Louis-Philippe I, who ascended to the throne in 1830. Many of the palace's rooms were taken over to house the new collections and the large Galerie des Batailles (Hall of the Battles) was created to display paintings and sculptures depicting milestones battles of French history. The collections display painted, sculpted, drawn and engraved images illustrating events or personalities of the history of France since its inception. The museum occupies the lateral wings of the Palace. Most of the paintings date back to the 19th century and have been created specially for the museum by major painters of the time such as Delacroix, Horace Vernet or François Gérard but there are also much older artworks which retrace French History. Notably the museum displays works by Philippe de Champaigne, Pierre Mignard, Laurent de La Hyre, Charles Le Brun, Adam Frans van der Meulen, Nicolas de Largillière, Hyacinthe Rigaud, Jean Antoine Houdon, Jean Marc Nattier, Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Hubert Robert, Thomas Lawrence, Jacques-Louis David, Antoine Jean Gros and also Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
Queen's bedchamber in the grand appartement de la reine
Gardens of Versailles
Located in close proximity to the château, these smaller structures served the needs of members of the royal family and court officials during the Ancien Régime. They include the Ménagerie (1664, demolished), the Trianon de Porcelaine (1670, demolished), the Grand Trianon or Marble Trianon (1689), the Petit Trianon (1768), and the Pavillon de la Lanterne (1787).
One of the most baffling aspects to the study of Versailles is the cost – how much Louis XIV and his successors spent on Versailles. Owing to the nature of the construction of Versailles and the evolution of the role of the palace, construction costs were essentially a private matter. Initially, Versailles was planned to be an occasional residence for Louis XIV and was referred to as the "king's house". Accordingly, much of the early funding for construction came from the king's own purse, funded by revenues received from his appanage as well as revenues from the province of New France (Canada), which, while part of France, was a private possession of the king and therefore exempt from the control of the Parliaments.
Once Louis XIV embarked on his building campaigns, expenses for Versailles became more of a matter for public record, especially after Jean-Baptiste Colbert assumed the post of finance minister. Expenditures on Versailles have been recorded in the compendium known as the Comptes des bâtiments du roi sous le règne de Louis XIV and which was edited and published in five volumes by Jules Guiffrey in the 19th century. These volumes provide valuable archival material pursuant to the financial expenditures of all aspects of Versailles from the payments disbursed for many trades as varied as artists and mole catchers.
To counter the costs of Versailles during the early years of Louis XIV's personal reign, Colbert decided that Versailles should be the "showcase" of France. Accordingly, all materials that went into the construction and decoration of Versailles were manufactured in France. Even the mirrors used in the decoration of the Hall of Mirrors were made in France. While Venice in the 17th century had the monopoly on the manufacture of mirrors, Colbert succeeded in enticing a number of artisans from Venice to make the mirrors for Versailles. However, owing to Venetian proprietary claims on the technology of mirror manufacture, the Venetian government ordered the assassination of the artisans to keep the secrets proprietary to the Venetian Republic. To meet the demands for decorating and furnishing Versailles, Colbert nationalised the tapestry factory owned by the Gobelin family, to become the Manufacture royale des Gobelins.
In 1667, the name of the enterprise was changed to the Manufacture royale des Meubles de la Couronne. The Gobelins were charged with all decoration needs of the palace, which was under the direction of Charles Le Brun/
One of the most costly elements in the furnishing of the Grands appartements during the early years of the personal reign of Louis XIV was the silver furniture, which can be taken as a standard – with other criteria – for determining a plausible cost for Versailles. The Comptes meticulously list the expenditures on the silver furniture – disbursements to artists, final payments, delivery – as well as descriptions and weight of items purchased. Entries for 1681 and 1682 concerning the silver balustrade used in the salon de Mercure serve as an example:
- Year 1681
II. 5 In anticipation: For the silver balustrade for the king's bedroom: 90,000 livres
II. 7 18 November to Sieur du Metz, 43,475 livres 5 sols for delivery to Sr. Lois and to Sr. de Villers for payment of 142,196 livres for the silver balustrade that they are making for the king's bedroom and 404 livres for tax: 48,861 livres 5 sol.
II. 15 16 June 1681 – 23 January 1682 to Sr. Lois and Sr. de Villers silversmiths on account for the silver balustrade that they are making for the king's use (four payments): 88,457 livres 5 sols.
II. 111 25 March – 18 April to Sr. Lois and Sr. de Villers silversmiths who are working on a silver balustrade for the king, for continued work (two payments): 40,000 livres
- Year 1682
II. 129 21 March to Sr. Jehannot de Bartillay 4,970 livres 12 sols for the delivery to Sr. Lois and de Villers silversmiths for, with 136,457 livres 5 sol to one and 25,739 livres 10 sols to another, making the 38 balusters, 17 pilasters, the base and the cornice for the balustrade for the château of Versailles weighing 4,076 marc at the rate of 41 livres the marc[b] including 41 livres 2 sols for tax: 4,970 livres 12 sols.
Accordingly, the silver balustrade, which contained in excess of one ton of silver, cost in excess of 560,000 livres. It is difficult – if not impossible – to give an accurate rate of exchange between 1682 and today.[c] However, Frances Buckland provides valuable information that provides an idea of the true cost of the expenditures at Versailles during the time of Louis XIV. In 1679, Mme de Maintenon stated that the cost of providing light and food for twelve people for one day amounted to slightly more than 14 livres. In December 1689, to defray the cost of the War of the League of Augsburg, Louis XIV ordered all the silver furniture and articles of silver at Versailles—including chamber pots—sent to the mint to be melted.
Clearly, the silver furniture alone represented a significant outlay in the finances of Versailles. While the decoration of the palace was costly, certain other costs were minimised. For example, labour for construction was often low, due largely to the fact that the army during times of peace and during the winter, when wars were not waged, was pressed into action at Versailles. Additionally, given the quality and uniqueness of the items produced at the Gobelins for use and display at Versailles, the palace served as a venue to showcase not only the success of Colbert's mercantilism, but also to display the finest that France could produce.
Costs of restoration programmes
The ravages of war and neglect over the centuries have left their mark on the palace and its park. Modern French governments of the post-World War II era have sought to repair these damages. They have on the whole been successful, but some of the more costly items, such as the vast array of fountains, have yet to be put back completely in service. As spectacular as they might seem now, they were even more extensive in the 18th century. The 18th-century waterworks at Marly— the Machine de Marly that fed the fountains— was possibly the biggest mechanical system of its time. The water came in from afar on monumental stone aqueduct which have long ago fallen in disrepair or been torn down. Some aqueducts were never completed for want of resources or due to the exigencies of war. The search for sufficient supplies of water was never fully realised even during the apogee of Versailles' glory as the seat of government, as the fountains could not be operated together satisfactorily for any significant periods of time.
The restoration initiatives launched by the Fifth Republic have proven to be perhaps more costly than the expenditures of the palace in the Ancien Régime. Starting in the 1950s, when the museum of Versailles was under the directorship of Gérald van der Kemp, the objective was to restore the palace to its state – or as close to it as possible – in 1789 when the royal family left the palace. Among the early projects was the repair of the roof over the Hall of Mirrors; the publicity campaign brought international attention to the plight of post-war Versailles and garnered much foreign money including a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Concurrently, in Russia, the restoration of the Pavlovsk Palace located outside of Leningrad – today's Saint Petersburg – brought the attention of French museum authorities, including the curators of Versailles.
Pavlovsk Palace was built by Catherine the Great's son Paul. The czarevitch and his wife, Marie Feodorovna, were avid francophiles, who, on a visit to France and Versailles in the 1780s, purchased great quantities of silk, which they later used to upholster furniture in Pavlosk. The palace survived the Russian Revolution intact – descendants of Paul I were living in the palace at the time the communists evicted them – however, during the Second World War, the furniture and artifacts housed in the palace, which had been transformed into a museum, were removed. In the process of evacuation the museum collections, remnants of the silks purchased by Paul I of Russia and Marie Feodorovna were found and conserved. After the war when Soviet authorities were restoring the palace, which had been gutted by the retreating Nazi forces, they recreated the silk fabrics by using the conserved 18th-century remnants.
When the French authorities saw the results of Russian efforts and the high quality they were able to achieve, the French revived 18th-century weaving techniques so as to reproduce the silks used in the decoration of Versailles. The two greatest achievements of this initiative are seen today in wall hangings used in the restoration of the chambre de la reine in the grand appartement de reine and the chambre du roi in the appartement du roi. While the design used for the chambre du roi was, in fact, from a design that had been used during the Ancien Régime to decorate the chambre de la reine, it nevertheless represents a great achievement in the ongoing restoration at Versailles. Additionally, this project, which took over seven years to achieve, required several hundred kilograms of silver and gold to complete. One of the more costly endeavors for the museum and the government of France's Fifth Republic has been to repurchase as much of the original furnishings as possible. However, because furniture with a royal provenance – and especially furniture that was made for Versailles – is a highly sought after commodity on the international market, the museum has spent considerable funds on retrieving much of the palace's original furnishings/
In 2003, a new restoration initiative – the "Grand Versailles" project – was started, which necessitated unexpected repair and replantation of the gardens. The project will be on-going for the next seventeen years, funded with a state endowment of €135 million allocated for the first seven years. The project will address such concerns as security for the palace, and continued restoration of the bosquet des trois fontaines. Vinci SA underwrote the €12 million restoration project for the Hall of Mirrors, which was completed in 2006/
Estimates of the amount spent to build Versailles are speculative. An estimate in 2000 placed the amount spent on Versailles during the Ancien Régime as US$2 billion. This figure in all probability is an under-evaluation of the money spent on Versailles. France's Fifth Republic expenditures alone that have been directed to restoration and maintenance at Versailles undoubtedly surpass those of the Sun King.
|This section does not cite any references (sources). (August 2008)|
The politics of display
Versailles became the home of the French nobility and the location of the royal court—thus becoming the centre of French government. Louis XIV himself lived there, and symbolically the central room of the long extensive symmetrical range of buildings was the King's Bedchamber (La Chambre du Roi), which itself was centred on the lavish and symbolic state bed, set behind a rich railing not unlike a communion rail. Indeed, even the principal axis of the gardens themselves was conceived to radiate from this fulcrum. All the power of France emanated from this centre: there were government offices here; as well as the homes of thousands of courtiers, their retinues and all the attendant functionaries of court. By requiring that nobles of a certain rank and position spend time each year at Versailles, Louis prevented them from developing their own regional power at the expense of his own, and kept them from countering his efforts to centralize the French government in an absolute monarchy.
At various periods before Louis XIV established absolute rule, France, like the Holy Roman Empire lacked central authority and was not the unified state it was to become during subsequent centuries. During the Middle Ages some local nobles were often more powerful than the French King and, although technically loyal to the King, they possessed their own provincial seats of power and government, culturally influential courts and armies loyal to them and not the King, and the right to levy their own taxes on their subjects. Some families were so powerful, they achieved international prominence and contracted marriage alliances with foreign royal houses to further their own political ambitions. Although nominally Kings of France, de facto royal power had at times been limited purely to the region around Paris.
Life at Court
Life at Versailles was intrinsically determined by position, favour and above all one's birth. The Chateau was a sprawling cluster of lodgings for which courtiers vied and manipulated. Today, many people see Versailles as unparalleled in its magnificence and splendour; yet few know of the actual living conditions many of Versailles' august residents had to endure. Modern historians have, on more than one occasion, compared the palace to a vast apartment block. Apart from the royal family, the majority of the residents were senior members of the household.
On each floor, living units of varying size, some 350 in all, were arranged along tiled corridors and given a number. Each door had a key, which was to be handed in when the lodging was vacated. Many courtiers would trade lodgings and group together with their allies, families or friends. The Noailles family took over so much of the Southern Wing's attic that the corridor leading to all the lodgings on that floor was nicknamed "Noailles Road" by courtiers of the time.
Rank and status dictated everything in Versailles; not least among that list was one's lodgings. Louis XIV envisaged Versailles as a seat for all the Bourbons, as well as his troublesome nobles. These nobles were, so to say, placed within a "gilded cage". Luxury and opulence was not always in the description given to their residences. Many nobles had to make do with one or two room apartments, forcing many nobles to buy town-houses in Versailles proper and keeping their palace rooms for changes of clothes or entertaining guests, rarely sleeping there. Rooms at Versailles were immensely useful for an ambitious courtier as they allowed palace residents easy and constant access to the monarch, essential to their ambitions, and gave them constant access to the latest gossip and news.
Treaties and proclamations
After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, with the Siege of Paris dragging on, the palace was the main headquarters of the Prussian army from 5 October 1870 until 13 March 1871. On 18 January 1871, Prussian King Wilhelm I was proclaimed German Emperor in the Hall of Mirrors, and the German Empire was founded.
After the First World War, it was the site of the opening of the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, also on 18 January. Germany was blamed for causing the First World War in the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed in the same room on 28 June 1919.
In popular culture
Singer-songwriter Al Stewart released a song entitled "The Palace of Versailles", detailing the French Revolution, The Terror, and the military coup of Napoléon Bonaparte, from the perspective of "the lonely Palace of Versailles".
On 2 July 2005, the French Live 8 was held in the courtyard of Versailles.
In 2012 animated film Madagascar 3, sophisticated chimpanzees Mason and Phil dress up as "King of Versailles" in reference to the Palace of Versailles.
In the 2013 release, Pokémon X & Y, The Palace of Versailles is depicted as Parfum Palace.
Images of Versailles
Salle du Sacre with a view toward Salle des Gardes in the Queen's Grand Apartment
- Bureau du Roi
- Châteaux of the Loire Valley
- List of Baroque residences
- Paris Peace Conference, 1919
- Tennis Court Oath (French: serment du jeu de paume) in the Saint-Louis district
- Treaty of Versailles
- Versailles Cathedral
- Ayers 2004, pp. 334–336.
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- The marble paving (giving rise to the current name), gilded balconies, and busts were added by Le Vau/D'Orbay c. 1669–1671. The 3-storey avant-corps fronted with eight red marble columns supporting a gilded wrought-iron balcony and surmounted with a triangle of lead statuary surrounding a large clock, and the elaborate dormer windows and lead roof dressings, were added by Hardouin-Mansart in 1679–1681 (Ayers 2004, pp. 335, 338; Gady 2010, pp. 173–174). In 1701 Louis XIV moved his private bedroom to the room opening onto the balcony of the avant-corps (Ayers 2004, p. 338). Upon his death, the hands of the clock were stopped (Saule & Meyer 2000, p. 10).
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- |Constitution of 1875
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Palace of Versailles.|
- Official Site
- Virtual Tour of the Palace (fullscreen panoramic tour)
- Large Versailles photo gallery
- Flickr : Le Parc de Versailles
- Versailles on Paper (exhibition website)
- 3D evolution of the Palace of Versailles