Palace of Versailles – 26/6/2016

Brief History

Versailles is built on King Louis XIII’s old hunting pavilion by his son Louix XIV and is made up of 2300 rooms.  The court and government moved from Paris to Versailles in 1682 and the Palace was extended and embellished by successive kings until the French Revolution in 1789, when Louix XVI left Versailles for Paris.  It wasn’t used as a royal residence again and in 1837 King Louise Phillipe ordered it to become the Museum of the History of France, housing collections of paintings and sculptures.

One of the many statues of the ‘Sun King’, this one found at the main entrance to Versailles.  Us in the gardens in Versailles.

Hall of Mirrors

The hall of mirrors contains 357 mirrors covering its 73 meters length and was built between 1678 and 1684.  There are 30 paintings in the vaulted ceiling, illustrating Louis XIV first 18 years of his reign.  The hall of mirrors was used as a waiting and meeting place and on occasions for balls and games.  It was also in the hall that the Treaty of Versailles was signed on the 28th of June 1919, ending World War 1.

 

The hall of mirrors is a very popular area in the palace and always filled with people.

The Royal Chapel

The royal chapel was completed at the end of Louis XIV reign in 1710.  The chapel is Gothic design.  The chapel was dedicated to Saint Louis who was the patron saint of the king.  The king attended daily mass at 10 am surrounded by his family in the family tribune, the ladies of the court in opposite tribunes and the general public in the nave.

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The King’s Apartments

The king’s apartments like the rest of Versailles is lavishly decorated with beautiful brocade fabrics, art work and furnishings.  The photos are of Louis XIV bedchamber, which he used from 1701, after having it remodeled.  Interestingly enough it is also in this room that he died on the 1st of September, 1715, after a 72 year reign.  The Sun King is present throughout the palace in paintings, busts, statues and as a metal sun in the fences.  In this room it was as a bust 

The Mercury Room

The Mercury room began as a royal bedchamber before being converted to a games room.  On the ceiling of the Mercury room, painted by Jean-Baptise de Champaigne is Mercury on a chariot being pulled by two roosters. Although the apartment looks opulent, decorated with period pieces, it originally contained silver chandeliers and silver on the walls, ceiling and fireplace, all of which were melted down to fund the War of the League of Augsburg in 1689. Similarly brocade fabrics containing silver and gold threads were used to finance the War of Spanish Succession.  This room housed King Louis XIV coffin after he died, for viewing for a few days.

The Gardens

There are immense sculpted gardens surrounding Versailles just waiting to be explored and it does take some time.

The Orangery contains formal garden areas, a fountain and in the summer potted orange trees, originating from Portugal, Spain and Italy as well as lemon trees, oleander and pomegranate trees, some over 200 years old.  During the winter they are housed in a nearby building.

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The Fountains

The Latona fountain is inspired by Greek mythology.  Latona the mistress to the god Jupiter, had two children with him, Apollo and Diana, who are represented in the top tier of the fountain with their mother.  Through Latona’s travels in what is now known as Turkey, she found water and when approaching it to drink, some peasants refused to allow her entrance, even after begging.  She tried to go to the water and the peasants stamped and churned up the mud, making it undrinkable.  Latona cursed the peasants and turned them into frogs where they were forever tied to the slimy pool.  The lower levels of the fountains show the peasants in various stages of metamorphosis into frogs. 

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Apollo’s Fountain was commissioned by Louis XIV and constructed between 1668 and 1670 from gilded lead.  The fountain is of Apollo, the sun god and Louis’s icon.  It shows Apollo bursting through the water in his chariot on his daily flight above earth.

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Statues

The gardens are filled with over 300 statues, which accentuate the beauty of the gardens.  The original statues in the gardens celebrated love and gallantry but during Louis XIV reign moved towards and Apollonian theme, with Greek mythical creatures and characters. I have included a few, particularly ones that have an interesting story.  

Castor and Pollux  is a replica statue made by Antoine Coysevox between 1685 and 1707 and first exhibited in the Louvre before being relocated to the gardens in Versailles.  So who were Castor and Pollux?  According to Greek and Roman Mythology they were twins. Castor was the mortal son of the King of Sparta, while Pollux was the immortal son of Zeux.  In Latin they are referred to as the Gemini, yes the constellation.  Castor was killed and Pollux convinced his father Zeus to let him share his immortality with his brother and they became the constellation Gemini.

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Samson fighting the lion with his bare hands, demonstrating his superhuman ability seems to be the theme of this statue.

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The Grand Trianon Centaur found in the sculptured gardens surrounding the Grand Trianon Palace.

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Trianon

Grand Trianon was King Louis XIV second residence, built in 1687.  Louis was able to live here free from royal protocol here, in other words house his mistress. After the revolution the original furniture was lost, but was later replaced by Napoleon and his second wife, Empress Marie-Louise for their many stays.

The room on the left was originally Louis XIV bedroom but was refurnished for Empress Marie-Louise.  The room on the right was used by King Louis-Phillipe with his family as a games room.

The Grand Trianon, also called the pink palace with its formal gardens.  Photo on the right is of gallery home to 24 pictures featuring the gardens of Versailles and Grand Trianon as they were in the 17th century.

Photos of the formal gardens surrounding the Grand Trianon.  Bottom photo is of the Grand Canal.

Petite Trianon

The Petite Trianon was built in 1768 for Louis XV, it was here that he later died in 1774 from the pox.  After his death Louis XVI became king and gave his wife Marie-Antoinette the estate as a gift.  The very pink room, the Grand Saloon was where royalty could entertain the special invited guests.  Marie-Antoinette was musical and favoured the harp.  The floral room was Marie-Antoinette’s bedroom when she stayed at the Petite Trianon. The final picture is a portrait of the lady herself, which hangs in what was once her home.

Tourist Information for Versailles

Opening Times:

  • The Palace – Closed on Mondays, December 25th and January 1st, open 9 – 5.30 with last admission at 5 pm.
  • The Coach Gallery – Closed on Mondays, December 25th and January 1st, open 12.30 pm – 5.30 pm with last admission at 4.45 pm.
  • The Estate of Trianon – Closed on Mondays, December 25th and January 1st, open 12 pm – 5.30 pm, last admission at 5 pm
  • The Gardens – Open daily 8 am – 6 pm, with last admission at 5 pm.  It is closed during bad weather
  • The Park – Open daily 8 am – 6 pm, with last admission at 5.30 pm
  • The Estate of Marly – open daily 8 am – 5.30 pm

Cost:  You can pre-purchase tickets to avoid the ques when you arrive by using the website: http://en.chateauversailles.fr/plan-your-visit/tickets-and-prices or purchase tickets on arrival.

  • The palace and gardens are free for under 18 or under 26 for EU residents
  • For adult tickets there are so many different options as to whether you want one or more days whether you want to see just the palace or gardens, the best option is to follow the link for ticket prices: http://en.chateauversailles.fr/plan-your-visit/tickets-and-prices 

Official Website: http://en.chateauversailles.fr/

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