The Palace of Versailles is one of the utmost visited monuments in the world. Often, it is associated with King Louis XIV, “The Sun King.” He is said to be an absolute monarch who ruled France, one of the most powerful nations of the 17th century. He transformed the moderate chateau of his father, Louis XIII, into a sumptuous palace, a symbol of his power.
The Palace of Versailles or former French royal residence and center of government is now a national landmark. It is located in the city of Versailles, Yvelines department, Ile-de-France region, northern France, 10 miles (16km) west-southwest of Paris. As it is the center of the French court, Versailles was one of the grandest theatres of European absolutism.
We have mentioned the main reasons due to which you must have a visit to the Palace of Versailles during your travel to France.
Originally, Versailles was a village in a muddy area a dozen miles away in the south-west of Paris. This place, covered with woods and filled with game, represented an ideal hunting ground. By the end of the 16th century, King Henri IV and his son Louis XIII enjoyed hunting parties around Versailles to have a hideaway in the countryside. The building, transformed into a small castle between 1631 and 1634, represents the first milestone of the future Palace of Versailles.
The day of the Dupes basically recalls two days November 10 and 11, 1630. On November 10, Marie de’ Medici, King Louis XIII’s mother and Queen of France, asked her son to fire Cardinal de Rich in lieu. Cardinal de Richelieu was an influential advisor of the king; at the beginning, Marie de Medici introduced him to Louis XIII. He suddenly turned out to be her most potent rival. Queen Marie de’ Medici strived to keep an iron hand on her son and the entire kingdom of France. Notwithstanding Louis XIII’s efforts to reconcile the two opponents, he finally gave in his mother’s request.
As said, in the 17th century, France was a flourishing country that progressively became the ruling European nation. With King Louis XIV’s reign came a profound reform of the monarchic system initiated by his predecessors: the absolute monarchy. Louis XIV was then supposed to be a king by the divine right he got. He held all the powers of France in his hands. He was considered the representative of God on the earth. After this, with the help of the First minister of State Jean-Baptiste Colbert, they reinstated the Academy of Arts to regiment the artistic creations. Arts had to play an extensive role in the promotion and glorification of the monarchy. Architects designed the royal domains to contribute to the Prince’s glory. The monarch’s power had to shine over the entire world not only through wars but also with monuments and arts. Supplementary, three palaces became the monarchy’s favorites: the palaces of Fontainebleau, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and Versailles.
Charles Le Brun, the most authoritative designer of his time and “First Painter to the King”, conducted Versailles’ transformations. With Colbert’s help, he reformed the Academy of Painting and Sculpture and ran an artistic policy that influenced entire Europe. From the 1670s onwards, Le Brun created the interior décor of the Palace of Versailles, a masterpiece representative of his true genius. Visitors can admire his paintings in the Hall of Mirrors, the War Room, the Peace Room, and the King’s state apartment. He also designed the abundant décor for the ambassadors’ staircase, which was destroyed in 1752.
The folklore used to promote the monarchy played an important role in shaping Louis XIV’s palace. He chose the filiation with Apollo, the Greek god of the light, arts, and music – artists used the sun to represent him. The entire motif used by the artists of Louis XIV, le Roi Soleil (the Sun King), revolved around Apollo and the sun myth. The Palace of Versailles and its gardens make a perfect example of this allegory. It is filled with several elements referring to Apollo: the sun, lyres, laurel wreaths, and bow and chariots.
The Hall of Mirrors certainly is the most famous room in the Palace of Versailles. Between 1678 and 1684, architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart created the building while Charles Le Brun designed the interior decoration. This 73-meter long hall, covered with 357 mirrors, offered Louis XIV a luxurious room to entertain his prestigious guests.
In the 1664 spring season, Louis XIV held his first celebration at the Palace of Versailles: “the party of the Delights of the Enchanted Island.” Dedicated to Queen Maria-Theresa and his mother Anne of Austria, the king invited 600 guests to the party. Famous playwright Moliere and composer Jean-Baptiste Lully created for the occasion a ballet called the Princess of Elide. Louis XIV himself played the first role in this performance.
Versailles has set an example for almost all nations. It stands as a model of absolute monarchy; the Kingdom of France was the most influential European nation of the 17th century. From 1690 onwards for over a century, architects from everywhere in Europe will copy the architecture and décor of the palace. For example, the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso in Spain and the Peterhof Palace in Russia were greatly inspired by the Palace of Versailles. Although none of them could compete with the original masterpiece. No other place became as grand as the Palace of Versailles. Louis XIV spent an enormous sum of money on building such a majestic monument.
In 1837, Louis-Phillippe, king of the French, opened inside the palace a museum dedicated to “all the glories of France”. Yet, only during the 20th century, the palace became the museum we can visit today. In 1924, John D. Rockefeller Jr., an American financier, and philanthropist proposed his help to the French state to save the Palace. Indeed, due to the lack of money, the monument had fallen into ruin. Although thanks to his support, the curators reopened certain parts of the gardens and brought back to the Palace several pieces of furniture sold after the French Revolution.
If we talk about the present day, the Palace of Versailles welcomes 10 million visitors each year, making it one of the world’s most visited heritage sites. Visitors get to explore the beautiful gardens as well as the grand rooms of the palace. Versailles collections host around 60,000 art pieces, providing an excellent overview of centuries of French history.
Without wasting a second application for your France visa, and once it is approved get the necessary things and proceed towards visiting the best heritage site in the world. Undoubtedly, it will be a memorable trip.