The Construction of the Palace of Versailles
You can put in the fanciest of french doors in your home, but they will never hold a candle to the Palace of Versailles. The Palace of Versailles is one of the largest, most breathtaking palaces in the world. It currently serves as a major French museum and tourist attraction, but congress continues to meet in its halls when they discuss amending the constitution. As a museum, Versailles is an astounding reminder of the grandeur of the royal families of history. Versailles’ construction is interesting because it happened in six distinct phases, beginning with a small lodge.
In 1575, a man named Albert de Gondi purchased land in the city Versailles. He later invited Louis XIII on hunting trips. When Louis saw how good the game was, he decided to have a hunting lodge constructed. In 1624, the hunting lodge was complete. He enjoyed his lodge so much that in 1632 he built a larger home nearby. This home and hunting lodge later became the core for future expansions.
The home in Versailles was popular enough with the royal family, that in 1664 Louis XIV expanded it to accommodate 600 guests that he invited to a week-long party. This party was known as the Pleasures of the Enchanted Island. He also expanded the gardens for the entertainment of his guests.
Louis XIV began another expansion project in 1669, and it lasted until 1672. The expansion took in the old hunting lodge, and the changes he made began to resemble the palace as it stands today. The royal apartments were constructed, each apartment with seven lavishly-decorated rooms. Decorations included many depictions of the great kings of history.
In 1678, Louis XIV began another expansion project, following the end of the Dutch War. He added to the gardens and built the north and south wings. During this construction, the Hall of Mirrors was built, which remains a favorite sight today.
At the end of the War of the League of Augsburg in 1699, Louis XIV began another construction project on what was now rightly called the Place of Versailles. This project lasted 11 years, and during it he modified some of the royal apartments. The most notable addition, though, was the chapel. Following this construction project, Louis XIV did not make any more changes. After his death in 1715, the palace was abandoned.
Louis XV re-opened the doors of the palace in 1722, and spent much time developing the gardens out of a passion for botany. He also added a building to the grounds for his mistress, Madame dePompadour. The building is small in the shadow of the palace, but is a grand chateau in its own right. Later, his son’s young bride, Marie Antoinette, longed for an escape from palace life, and the king gave the chateau to her as a gift.
Museum of Decadence and Beauty
The Palace of Versailles is timeless. It was loved by its historical occupants, and now it is loved by the French and tourists alike. Even the widespread destruction of architecture and art that took place during the French Revolution, respected Versailles enough that it was relatively left alone. Most of the artwork was saved for the Louver rather than destroyed, and the building structure was left intact. Today it stands as a witness of the decadence of past royal families, but it also witnesses of the beauty created by France.
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