blog posts

Palace Of Versailles, France; Interesting History And Facts About The Largest Royal Realm In The World

The Palace of Versailles is a magnificent building located sixteen kilometers southwest of Paris in the city of Versailles, formerly known as the residence of the French royal family.

 The arrival of the royal family in Versailles and the selection of this city as the site of the Palace of Versailles was named after the languages, otherwise, in the past, it was equal in importance to other small cities in France. 

The arrival of the royal family in the city flourished in 1682, and by the time of the French Revolution in 1789, Versailles, with a population of more than 60,000, had become one of the most important urban centers in France.

The Palace of Versailles has a total area of ​​8150256 square meters, or 2014 hectares and is the largest royal territory in the world. The infrastructure area of ​​the Palace of Versailles is equivalent to 67,002 square meters.

The magnificent and beautiful architecture of the Palace of Versailles, along with its background and influence on French history and politics, are two important factors that have attracted the attention of ordinary people and historians around the world to this palace. 

Louise Bo Schmidt is a Danish author who has done a lot of research on this palace and its history; He wrote about this palace: “People believe that the Palace of Versailles is a clear example of the glory of France. 

This palace represents an era in which France established itself as one of the world powers and a unique country. “In addition, the bloody and influential events that led to the fall of the monarchy in France belong to this era.”

Palace of Versailles: A hunting ground that became the Royal Palace

Old painting of the Palace of Versailles

In the beginning, it was the fertility of the lands of Versailles that attracted the attention of the French kings. Louis XIII (reign: 1643-1601) bought the land on which the Palace of Versailles was built, built a residence there, and occasionally went hunting there. At that time, most of the land around Versailles was uninhabited, which increased the number of wildlife in these areas, making it an ideal place for hunting.

During the 72 years of his reign in France, Louis XIV expanded the hunting ground of the previous king, and by his order, a very large and beautiful palace was built, which was divided into southern and northern parts and consisted of many buildings.

 The main purpose of the Palace of Versailles was to show the power of the king. “The most important message that the Palace of Versailles, with its magnificent architecture, had for the people of France and the world, was the absolute power of Louis XIV as King of France,” said Thie Goodak, a specialist and researcher in the history of art living in Amsterdam.

 He believed in the absolute rule of the king and was so far removed from the common people that it was practically impossible to reach him.

 More importantly, Louis XIV was named King of the Sun, and one can clearly see the influence of the architecture of the Palace of Versailles on the symbol of the Sun.

In addition to the buildings of the Palace of Versailles, a number of large and beautiful gardens were built in the western part of the palace and a specific design and shape was followed to build all the gardens (for example, one of the gardens was built in the shape of a star). 

Sculptures and fountains were used to decorate the gardens, which pumped water upwards by means of a hydraulic system. According to Godak the Crested, the purpose of building gardens was to show such beauty and grandeur that Louis XIV even dominates nature and enjoys such godly power.

The gardens of the Palace of Versailles generally cover an area of ​​1976 hectares and are among the largest gardens in the world. Annually 210,000 flowers and 200,000 trees are planted in these gardens. In 1979, these gardens were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List next to the Palace of Versailles.

 The main palace gardens are more famous than other gardens: the beautiful geometric design of the garden, the rows of beautiful trees and sidewalks, and the ponds and water canals of this garden are among the reasons for its fame. Of course, more than anything else, it is the fountains in the garden of the Palace of Versailles that attract attention. 

A total of 50 fountains have been built to entertain guests in these gardens, using 620 fountains. Many of these fountains still use the same old hydraulic systems built by order of the royal family.

Gardens of the Palace of Versailles

Tony Spauforth, a professor at the University of Newcastle, wrote of the fountains in his book, Versailles:

A Biography of a Palace: “The work of the engineers of these fountains was not only artistically spectacular, but also remarkable in terms of the use of hydraulic systems at the time.”

 Of course, Spaoforth goes on to explain that the problems associated with supplying the water needed for these fountains made it only possible to use them in special situations and ceremonies.

In the western part of the garden, a large water canal was built, which was approximately 1.6 km long, and was sometimes used to display French naval equipment. In addition, special rowing boats were donated to France by the Venetian government in those years and were used in this canal.

The erection of this magnificent building was part of Louis XIV’s plan and manner to express his views on the monarchy: what is known today as absolute government or pure authority. “Louis XIV, as King of France, was the epitome of France, and the Palace of Versailles was built to showcase France’s power and wealth to the rest of the world,” said Louise Bo Schmidt.

 In addition, he had to strengthen France’s authority among other European nations, and this empowerment was not limited to the army and the military, and France had to show itself in the field of art. 

“In France, for example, the import of mirrors from Italy was common at the time, but when the construction of the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles began, all the mirrors needed were made by the French themselves and on their own soil by order of Louis XIV.”

Another important step of Louis XIV was the transfer of the center of government of France to Versailles. Scholars and historians believe that the king of France did so for two main reasons: first, that in the event of a possible revolt of the people in Paris in the turbulent atmosphere of those days in France, it would be virtually impossible for the rebels to reach the king; Another reason was that members of the French royal family and other courtiers and officials were forced to move to the Palace of Versailles to live; In this case, they were monitored and the possibility of their disobedience was significantly reduced.

 It was as a result of this action of Louis XIV that the court of the Palace of Versailles became the center of French political power for almost a hundred years (from 1682 to 1789) (this trend continued before the French Revolution), which is why it is now the Palace of Versailles.

It is not just the eyes of a magnificent building; In fact, next to this issue, the Palace of Versailles is a symbol of the absolute power of the monarchy of France in those days.

After the French capital was moved to Versailles, and the king’s continued presence in the Palace of Versailles increased his interest in the building, he ordered the construction of the Grand Trianon (Grand, in French, grand): Palace: It was very luxurious, built 1.6 km northwest of the Palace of Versailles, and only Louis XIV and the guests of his choice could access it, and it was completely exclusive.

Interior of the Palace of Versailles and royal ceremonies

The Palace of Versailles generally consists of 350 accommodation units that vary in size and construction (from multi-room apartments to units that are about the size of a king). The area and geographical location of the place where people were given to live in depended on their position and the degree of their proximity to the king.

 The king’s eldest son, the crown prince’s successor, for example, owned a large apartment on the ground floor of the palace, but there was no better place for the palace staff than the attic or attic.

Louis XIV bedroom is located on the upper floor in the center of the west-east axis of the Palace of Versailles. This room was known as the most important place in the interior of the Palace of Versailles, and the two most important ceremonies of that time, the awakening (sunrise) and the sleep (sunset) of the king, were held in it accompanied by some of the king’s nephews.

 Louis XIV also had a special ceremony to wear and take off his hunting boots. 

As you may have noticed, these ceremonies were associated with the title of king, the king of the sun, which has already been described. In fact, the royal court was known as a smaller example of the universe, and in the meantime the king himself played the role of the sun of the universe.

 Everything the king did was seen as a symbolic metaphor for his divine existence. The “Ladder of Ambassadors”, built in the Palace of Versailles at that time, is known as one of the most ceremonial buildings of the Baroque era.

The king's bedroom in the palace of VersaillesKing Bedroom

The importance of the presence of the king’s courtiers and successors continued during the reigns of Louis XV and XV. A note from a courtier at the time, dated 1784, reads: “Most people who find their way to the court eventually come to the conclusion that if they want to have a closer relationship with the king, they must be present everywhere.

And as far as possible, they should be less unaware of attending the dawn ceremonies, taking off their boots, and the king’s sunset. “They must always be present at the royal dinner. In short, if they want to attract the king’s attention, they must work tirelessly.”

The throne of Louis XIV was located in the Apollo Hall (Apollo in Greek mythology, son of Zeus and known as the god of the sun, poetry, music, etc.). 

The royal church was also intended for religious ceremonies, spanning two floors of the Palace of Versailles and is believed by historians to have been built between 1699 and 1710.

Despite all the splendor of the Palace of Versailles, it was not possible to build a luxurious theater for a long time, and the king had to consent to the use of temporary halls. This trend continued until 1768, when the Royal Opera House was built by order of Louis XV. The design and mechanism of this hall was such that a place above the main stage was intended for musicians to allow dancing and feasting on the main stage. 

Of course, using the Opera House at night required the use of 3,000 candles to provide lighting, and France’s not-so-good financial situation at the time made it virtually impossible to use the Opera House repeatedly.

The most famous buildings of the Palace of Versailles

One of the most famous of these buildings is called the Hall of Mirrors. This hall consists of 17 large mirrored arches and in front of each of these arches, there is a window. In each arch, 21 pieces of mirrors have been used and there are a total of 357 pieces of mirrors in the hall. 

The length, width and height of the hall of mirrors are equal to 73, 10.5 and 12.3 meters, respectively. Among the decorations of the hall, we can mention the ceiling paintings and gilded sculptures along the walls. There are several glass chandeliers in the hall that are hung from the ceiling and have doubled its beauty. At special royal ceremonies, some 20,000 candles were lit to illuminate the Hall of Mirrors, giving it the title of “Lighting Corridor.”

Hall of Mirrors Palace of VersaillesHall of Mirrors

In all, five churches were built inside the Palace of Versailles, of which only the last remains. The church was consecrated as Louis IX of France during its construction and was originally dedicated to him (Louis IX was known as Saint Louis or St. Louis and was the patron saint of the Bourbon dynasty: the dynasty that ruled France for centuries and parts of Italy and Spain ); The construction of this church was completed in 1710. 

Although the church is sometimes referred to as Baroque, its architecture is more limited than that of Italian Baroque churches and is more theatrical. The use of patterned and colored glass, the vaulted roof and the narrow living room of this church have led some people to attribute the features of Gothic architecture to it (Gothic architecture was prevalent in Europe between the 12th and 16th centuries AD. He pointed to the pointed windows and tall columns.

The next building is the Grand King and Queen Apartments, built in the 1670s by the French architect Le Vau for Louis XIV. These apartments consist of a number of consecutive halls, each dedicated to one of the gods or planets. Court meetings were held in these halls.

The next building is the Queen’s Apartments, which consist of a number of private rooms and the Queen’s Golden Bedroom. The bedroom had a secret door that the last pre-revolutionary French queen and wife of Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, used to escape the Paris revolutionaries (in the early days of the revolution).

The last building to be introduced in this article is the Royal Opera House of Versailles, mentioned earlier. This hall was the main venue for theater and opera performances at the Palace of Versailles. The hall was designed by the French architect Ange Jacques Gabriel, and for this reason it is also known as the Gabriel Theater. 

The interior design of the hall was done by Augustine Pajo, who painted almost all parts of the interior with wood. The color chosen for the wood was such that it resembled marble. The hall is very suitable in terms of sound features and most of this feature is due to the use of wood in interior design. The Royal Opera House of Versailles has a capacity of more than seven hundred people.

Versailles Royal Opera House
Royal Opera House

Art and architecture of the Palace of Versailles

Today, almost any professional who visits the Palace of Versailles will find it a living example of Baroque and Rococo architectural styles (the late Rococo or Baroque is an architectural style that was introduced in the mid-eighteenth century; this style is characterized by many interior decorations and details. And its freshness.)

But the contemporary French at the time of the construction and operation of the Palace of Versailles did not consider its architecture to be Baroque, and this is quite understandable, because the architecture of the Palace of Versailles is very different from Italian Baroque buildings; Buildings that at the time were considered a source of inspiration for other European countries.

In fact, following the Italian Baroque style of construction of the Palace of Versailles could have angered Louis XIV: it contradicted his view of the absolute rule of the king and that he was at the center of everything. 

To illustrate his point, Louis XIV fired the famous Italian architect who had been hired to work on the Louvre (a palace built shortly before the Palace of Versailles).

Today, some scholars and scholars of the history of architecture call the palaces of Versailles and the Louvre the style of classical French architecture. According to them, features such as symbols of power and eternal domination of the king that can be seen in the architecture of these two palaces, distinguish them from the buildings of the Baroque era in Italy.

 Of course, the use of symbols could sometimes be seen in Baroque architecture, but it was rare for these symbols to emphasize the power of kings or the fact that he was chosen by God to be king.

Almost everywhere we look at the Palace of Versailles, we find a symbolic meaning. For example, images of Roman gods were used to decorate the ceilings, and in these images Louis XIV played the role of Apollo, the god of light or the sun.

 In addition, in place of the Palace of Versailles, one can see the initial letter of the king’s name, “L”, which is incorporated in various engravings. 

All this is in order to constantly remind him that he is the king and that the care and grace of God is the main source of his power.

Another point that is used in the decoration of the Palace of Versailles and attracts attention is the emphasis on the achievements of the king. The story of the king’s life has been used to decorate the Hall of Mirrors and the adjacent “War and Peace” halls. For example, in the Hall of Mirrors there are thirty paintings that tell epic stories of the achievements of Louis XIV. In these narrations, special emphasis is placed on the victory of the king in various battles. 

For example, one of the pictures shows Louis XIV crossing the Rhine River with his army in 1672; In this picture, Louis XIV is dressed in Roman clothes, his long hair is moving in the wind from behind, and he is holding a lightning bolt that he wants to throw at his enemies (Thunderbolt, in Greek mythology as a weapon) Zeus is introduced).

Marie Antoinette Mansion at the Palace of Versailles

Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI and the last queen before the French Revolution, ordered the construction of a separate mansion near the Grand Trianon building in the Palace of Versailles, consisting of several buildings, a house, a small theater and a farm (at the Palace of Versailles). Fresh produce from this farm was used); The name of the mansion was chosen Petit Trianon (Petit, in French meaning Petit).

Marie Antoinette Mansion at the Palace of VersaillesPart of Marie Antoinette Mansion

Marie Antoinette also commissioned the construction of another building, known as the “Temple of Love,” in which she appears to have had a view of the temple from her room at Petit Trianon (Petit in French for small). The temple has a dome-shaped roof supported by twelve columns and inside is a statue of Cupid, the Greek god of love, who is carving an arrow from Hercules. Another building that Marie Antoinette ordered to be built in her mansion was a beautiful cave with a fur bed and two entrances.

Temple of Love in the Palace of VersaillesTemple of Love

Although Marie Antoinette has been portrayed in history books as an exaggerated and overly generous queen, she was not really pleased to be queen. Paying more attention to the atmosphere of his mansion, it can be seen that he wanted a simpler life and missed his native Austria. She was the youngest daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and his wife Maria Theresa (the Holy Roman Empire, which dissolved in 1806, was a vast empire including countries such as Germany and Austria) and grew up in Vienna, Austria. Marie Antoinette had a very normal childhood and adolescence, enjoying eating in the privacy of her family and even playing with ordinary children, but it was impossible to do so in the Palace of Versailles. Since becoming Queen of France, she has had less privacy and had to do almost everything in front of others.

During her reign, Marie Antoinette tried to change some of these tumultuous ceremonies, but was opposed by the French and courtiers. It was he who built a mansion in the Palace of Versailles to get rid of the scrutiny and to be able to have his own privacy. In fact, the construction of this mansion was an attempt to relive the childhood that Marie Antoinette missed so much.

The connection of American history with the Palace of Versailles

Two key and influential events in the American Revolution took place at the Palace of Versailles. Benjamin Franklin (one of the founders of the United States of America and a man who specialized in many fields: scientist, researcher, writer, inventor, etc.) went to the Palace of Versailles on behalf of the newly declared United States to discuss the French-American treaty. Negotiate with Louis XVI. Franklin was finally able to persuade Louis XVI to provide military support to the United States. At that time, by order of Louis XVI, one of Benjamin Franklin’s inventions, the Franklin chimney was installed in the Palace of Versailles instead of the old chimneys, which produced less smoke.

Another important event that took place at the Palace of Versailles was the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which on September 3, 1783, at the State Department building near the Palace of Versailles, reached a final agreement and effectively ended the war with the revolutionaries. Decades later, when King Louis-Philippe I (1848-1830) converted the Palace of Versailles into a museum, he painted a painting depicting the siege of Yorktown: the siege is known as a great victory in the Revolutionary War. In it, French and American forces joined forces to bring the British forces to their knees.

The United States was still active in the palace in the 1920s: In those years, American millionaire John Davidson Rockefeller Jr., who had amassed considerable wealth from oil extraction and sales, rebuilt the roof of the Palace of Versailles and some other buildings.

Palace of Versailles after the fall of the Kingdom of France

In 1789 the French Revolution reached its zenith and Louis XVI and his Queen Marie Antoinette were overthrown. The revolutionaries brought them to Paris and beheaded both of them. After this incident, control of the Palace of Versailles officially fell to the new Republican government. Many of the palace furniture was sold during this period to cover the costs of future revolutionary wars. When Napoleon came to power in France, he ordered the construction of a complete apartment in the Grand Trianon and settled there.

King Louis-Philippe I exhibited various aspects of French history when he turned the Palace of Versailles into a museum. Today, the Palace Museum of Versailles has a section called the Battle Gallery, which houses artwork related to all the major battles in French history between 496 AD (Battle of Tolbiak) and 1809 (Battle of Wagram, the site of the Napoleonic Wars).

Gallery of Warsaw Palace battlesGallery of battles

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many parts of the museum were moved to the main interior of the Palace of Versailles to bring to life the pre-revolutionary atmosphere of France.

During this period after the revolution, two other important events took place in the Palace of Versailles. In 1871, France was defeated in a war against Prussia, and Wilhelm I held his coronation in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles to further humiliate the defeated French. Until a few years after the defeat, the situation in France was so bad that senators and other French officials were forced to hold meetings in Versailles instead of Paris (for security reasons).

In 1919, however, the French avenged this humiliation and defeat: In that year, the Treaty of Versailles was concluded in the Hall of Mirrors, requiring Germany to pay war reparations. Although the treaty effectively ended World War I, many believe it paved the way for World War II.

Originally built solely as a hunting ground for the king and his entourage, the Palace of Versailles became a place where some of the most important events in human history took place a few centuries later: events that gave rise to the modern world as we know it. .

Heritage of the Palace of Versailles

Today, the Palace of Versailles is known as one of the most popular tourist destinations in France. Every year, more than four million people visit this historic site and are thrilled to see its magnificent architecture, beautiful fountains and information about its historical background. Sometimes concerts are held in the gardens of this palace in summer.

If we consider the Palace of Versailles as a symbol of France, we will have two completely opposite aspects of the history and culture of this country: on the one hand, we will see the taste of French artists and architects and the richness of the culture of this country, and on the other hand We will find out about its tumultuous history. When the construction of the Palace of Versailles was completed, it amazed (still excites) the people of the world and represented the power and greatness of France.

 Over time, however, in the late eighteenth century, the palace became a symbol of the wealth of the French aristocracy: a class whose lives differed markedly from those of the common people and the ordinary class of society. The beginning of the Enlightenment in Europe also completely changed the way of thinking of French society, and since then the Palace of Versailles has been seen as a symbol of the old tyrannical monarchy.

Interesting facts about the Palace of Versailles

The Golden Gate of the Palace of Versailles was rebuilt in 2008. It was during the French Revolution that the gate of this palace was destroyed. Eighty meters of gold-plated steel rods and 100,000 gold leaves were used to reconstruct it. The reconstruction cost a total of € 5 million ($ 8 million) paid for by a number of charities.

The Golden Gate of the Palace of VersaillesThe Golden Gate

A total of 36,000 workers were used to build the Palace of Versailles and its gardens. The palace has a capacity of 5,000 people.

The Palace of Versailles has 2153 windows, 1,200 fireplaces, 700 rooms and more than 67 steps.

Much of the furniture in the Palace of Versailles was either sold or transferred to other museums during the unrest of the French Revolution. It was later, during the palace’s reconstruction and restoration, that many of the works of art were returned to their original location and housed in the palace’s own museum.

Many valuable works of art and paintings were used to decorate the Palace of Versailles. It is estimated that the number of paintings used in the palace reached 6,000 and the number of other valuable furniture and items reached 5,000.

Louis XIV had allocated one-third of the total capital for the construction of the Palace of Versailles to its fountains.

There are a total of 400 statues in the gardens of this palace.

Hundreds of crew worked in the kitchen of the Palace of Versailles. However, the relatively long distance from the kitchen to the palace dining hall meant that most of the King’s food was served cold.

The actual cost of building the Palace of Versailles is an issue that historians are still debating and have yet to come up with a definitive answer, as the value of the currency of that time can not be measured with certainty compared to today’s currency, although estimates have been made According to them, the final cost of building the palace was between two billion dollars (1994 US dollars) up to a maximum of 299,520,000,000,000 dollars.

In 2015, a film directed by Alan Rickman was released, which tells the story of how the gardens of the Palace of Versailles were built. Kate Winslet is one of the famous actors in this film who plays the role of garden designer and Alan Rickman himself has played the role of Louis XIV.