Chateau Versailles

As palaces and castles has been a reoccurring theme of recent posts (Kronborg, Frederiksborg, Fredensborg), I thought I would use this as an excuse to segue into writing about my visit to Versailles and some of my other European travels over the past year. As the estate is so large and I have so many pictures, I have decided to break it up into 3 posts on the Palace, Gardens and Marie Antoinette’s estate.

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Versailles is what happens when royalty loses touch with reality; it is excess in the extreme. I found my visit to Versailles challenging from an intellectual standpoint. On the one hand, I appreciated the architectural splendor and ornate design of the palace and gardens and consider myself lucky to be able to visit such a place today. On the other hand, I found myself pondering how many people died of poverty and starvation because of such extravagance. Ultimately, it was this lack of touch with reality that resulted in the French Revolution and the overthrow of the French monarchy and aristocracy.

Situated 20 kilometers southwest of Paris, the origins of Versailles date to the construction of a “hunting lodge” by Louis XIII in 1624. From 1661 to 1715, the chateau was transformed into a magnificent palace under the reign of Louis XIV and the court and seat of government were moved from Paris to there in 1682. The palace was subsequently embellished by Louis XV and Louis XVI until he and his wife Marie Antoinette were forced to flee its confines during the initial stages of the French Revolution in 1789.

Chateau Versailles. The palace is so large that it is impossible to get a complete picture of it. Missing from this picture are the North Wing and South Wing which are even larger

View of the palace with statue in foreground

View of statues decorating the facade of the palace

The Marble Courtyard and front of the palace, heavily decorated in gold leaf

More statues and gold leaf

The front gates…decorated in gold leaf

Key features of the place include the “Grand Appartement du Roi” and “Grand Appartement de la Reine”, two suites of 7 rooms which served as the the living quarters of the king and queen, respectively. Constructed between 1669 and 1672, the ceilings of the apartments are adorned with magnificent art, dulling the senses as one moves from one room to the next.

One of the larger rooms in the Royal Apartments. If you are wondering, everyone is looking at the artwork on the ceiling

An example of the furniture which might be found in the Royal Apartments. Yes, that table-top is pure marble

An example of the ornate paintings and design on each ceiling

Another ceiling…

A magnificent hall running through the heart of the palace

By far the most spectacular feature of the palace is the famous Hall of Mirrors, constructed between 1678 and 1684. It was here that the infamous Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, which many historians consider to be both the end of WWI and the beginning of WWII because of the excessive punative damages leveled against Germany.

Ornate wall art in the anteroom leading into the Hall of Mirrors. Yes, I think it is white marble.

The famous “Hall of Mirrors”. There were more than a few tourists visiting the day we were there.

Focus on the walls and ceiling with a few chandeliers thrown in. Windows are on the right, mirrors to the left.

Not too shabby light fixtures

The table at which the Treaty of Versailles was signed with artistic rendition of those present in the background

Another notable feature of the palace is the royal chapel, constructed between 1699 and 1710. Although additional apartments and features were added in subsequent years, this was the last large constructions project with the palace assuming much of the appearance of the palace which exists today.

View of the Royal Chapel from the ground floor

View of the Royal Chapel from the balcony

Close-up of the artwork adorning the ceiling of the chapel

Although some of assets of the palace were sold in the years immediately following the fall of the French monarchy in 1791, the French government had the forsight to keep the estate under state control. It’s subsequent use as a repository for art would eventually contribute to its evolution into one of the most important cultural sites in the world, attested to by its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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About Canadianindenmark

A Canadian expat working in the biotechnology industry in Copenhagen, Denmark
This entry was posted in European Travels, France. Bookmark the permalink.

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