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The Chateau of Versailles

There's Louis XIV riding his horse in front of his Palace.

Brief History of the Chateau:

Versailles was originally the site of a hunting lodge built in 1624 by Louis XIII. After he died, his son, Louis XIV, ordered that a palace be constructed on the same site. Work began in 1661 under the direction of Louis Le Vau, a French architect. The entire palace was built around the hunting lodge. The palace took 36,000 men more than 40 years to complete. It was occupied by three successive kings before the French Revolution. Over 1,000 nobles were in residence here during the reign of Louis XIV. It was expanded throughout his reign as the King. Louis XIV built virtually all of the Palace and the Parks. The only exception is the Opera. The Hall of Mirrors is where the Treaty of Versailles was signed which ended World War I.The palace is more than 1/4 mile (0.4 kilometer) long and has about 1,300 rooms. Many of the rooms have been restored and refurnished to look as they did when royalty lived in them. The palace also has paintings and sculptures by famous European artists.

The interior of the palace is richly decorated. The most famous rooms include the living quarters of the king and queen, the Room of Hercules, and the Hall of Mirrors. The Hall of Mirrors, designed by Charles Le Brun, was begun in 1678. It is a long hallway lined with mirrors that runs along the front of the palace. The ceiling is decorated with paintings glorifying the achievements of Louis XIV. The palace also contains a magnificent royal chapel and a private theater.

The French Revolution of 1789-1799 led to the overthrow of the French king. Mobs invaded the palace during the revolution and removed or destroyed most of the furniture and art. Little was done to maintain the building until the early 1900's, when restoration work began. This project is still going on.

The middle room on the second floor below the clock was the King's bedroom. The clock was always set to the time of the last King's death.
On the left in the middle is the King's bedroom. The main part of this picture is the rooms you will see on the guided tour of the Kings private rooms. They are set up like they were for Louis XV. This is a great tour and if you are lucky, you will get to see the Opera House too.

The Self-Guided Palace Tour is the first tour you should take. The highlights are the Hall of Mirrors, Chapel, and State Apartments.

In order below is a brief description of the rooms you will see:

When you walk in you will be on the ground floor. You can look in the chapel. To the left of the Chapel is a spiral staircase that you will walk up and be in the Upper Vestibule of the Chapel. You can again look in the chapel. The picture to the right is taken from the from the Upper Vestibule.


A good rule to follow at Versailles is to always look at the ceiling in every room. The next rooms in order are: (see the map on the following page)

Hercules Salon - Receptions used to be held in this room. Notice the Ceiling painting. The fireplace is decorated with Lions skins and the head of Hercules.
Abundance Salon - Used to be the entrance hall to the galeries when before the Chapel was built.
Venus Salon - The name comes from the ceiling painting. This used to be where the King had his supper in public. Check out the ceiling.
Diana Salon - This was Louis XIV's billiard room.
Mars Salon - this used to be the King's guard room. There are many famous paintings of the Royal Family in this room.
Mercury Salon - Used to be a game room, many famous paintings here also. Look at the old clock in the corner if you can.
Apollo Salon - The throne room. You can still see the three hooks to which the canopy was attached. There are paintings of Louis XIV (not the original which is in the Louvre) and Louis XV in this room. Look at the Ceiling.

War Salon - This is a neat room and worth some extra time. This room celebrates some military victories. There is a huge oval stucco bas-relief (shown on the right) of Louis XIV on horseback riding over his enemies. It is surmounted by two gilt figures representing Fame and held up by two gilt prisoners bound with chains of flowers. Below on a bas-relief set into a false fireplace, Clio writes the King's history. The ceiling depicts Franc in arms seated on a cloud surrounded by Victories. The shield has a portrait of Louis XIV.
Hall of Mirrors -

This room speaks for itself. It used to serve as a passageway from the King's apartment to the Queens. This is where the Treaty of Versailles was signed ending WW I. It was used for celebrations, balls, etc. Make sure you look out the window towards the gardens.


Peace Salon - This is the counterpart to the War Salon. Not as interesting. Look at the Ceiling.
Queen's Bedchamber - This room has been re-created to be like it was when Marie-Antoinette left the palace for the last time in 1889 because of the revolution. They use real gold in all of the brocades. It is an extremely gaudy room.
Nobles' Salon - Not much here, you are probably tired of my lectures by now.
Queen's Antechamber or Dining Hall. - This is where the King and Queen ate in public. It has also served as a small theatre for Marie Antoinette.
Queen's guardroom - This is a dull room. The inlaid marble walls are pretty neat. You wonder how they made them fit so well without machines.
Coronation Room - The King used to kneel to wash the feet of thirteen poor children to commemorate the last supper on Holy Thursday every hear. The coronation of Napoleon happened in this room.

Hall of Battles - This single room used to the separate rooms for the royal princes and princesses.The apartments were removed and it was turned into a gallery showing large paintings from the wars. The paintings show 14 centuries of French history starting with Clovis in 496 to Napoleon in 1809.

 

If you have time to take the guided tour do it. You will see the Opera and Louis XV's private rooms. On the right is the hallway you will walk down to see the Opera. There are statues of past Kings of France on both sides of the hall.

There is also a self guided audio tour you can take. The highlight for me was seeing the King's bedroom. Louis XIV died in the bed that is on display.

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