During your trip to Paris, you must visit the Versailles and its famous Palace.
Versailles is a town, situated at about 20km away from Paris and it is a typical french city with a unique architecture. It has become popular among the tourists because of its amazing palace which is emblematic for the city. This is a town born from the will of king Louis XIV, designed by Jules Hardouin Mansart who was the chief architect and the principal gardener André Le Nôtre.
The Versailles Palace
The Versailles Palace has been listed as a World Heritage Site for 30 years and it is one of the greatest achievements in French 17th century art. The Palace contains 2300 rooms.
Versailles was the seat of political power and is also a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy. Under Louis XIV, the whole senior nobility was pressured to spend a large amount of time in Versailles, as a form of political control. Building the palace and maintaining the court was extremely expensive but it helped to establish the dominance of French style and taste in Europe. The construction began around 1661 and was not completed until 1715. Versailles was planned to be an occasional residence for Louis XIV and was referred to as "the king's house".
In 1789, the French Revolution forced Louis XIV to leave Versailles for Paris. The Palace would never be a royal residence again and a new role was assigned to it, it became Museum of the History of France in 1837
In the beginning of the Renaissance period, the term "château" was used to refer to the rural location of a luxurious residence. Versailles was only a village at the time. It was destroyed in 1673 to make way for the new town Louis XIV wished to build.
The Estate of Trianon
The Estate of Trianon is home of the Petit Trianon and the Grand Trianon. The kings of versailles built themselves more intimates spaces close to the main palace.
Construction on the estate began under Louis XIV, who had the Grand Trianon Palace built at the far end of the northern branch of the Grand Canal. The estate is perhaps most closely associated with Queen Marie-Antoinette. The wife of Louis XVI regularly sought refuge at the Petit Trianon, where she commissioned marvellous landscaped gardens centred around a hamlet of cottages built in the rustic style then in vogue. Designed for more intimate moments, this royal estate contains architectural gems and magnificent gardens whose diversity and ornamentation give it a unique charm.
The Grand Trianon
The Grand Trianon is a unique architectural composition featuring a central colonnaded gallery, or ‘Peristyle’, opening onto the central courtyard on one side and the gardens on the other. Construction began in 1687, directed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart under the watchful eye of Louis XIV. The king used this new palace as a private residence where he could spend time with Madame de Maintenon. It was originally known as the ‘Marble Trianon’ on account of the pink marble panels which adorned the palace’s elegant façades. The majority of the apartments have retained their original appearance, including the sumptuous Mirror Room where the king would hold council. The ornate geometric flowerbeds of the French gardens were planted with tens of thousands of flowers, a spectacle which was greatly admired by Louis XIV’s visitors.
The Petit Trianon
The Petit Trianon, considered to be royal architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel’s masterpiece, is something of a manifesto for the neo-classical movement. Completed in 1768, it provided Louis XV and his new mistress the Comtesse Du Barry with the privacy which was so sorely lacking at the palace. This new royal residence was in fact an extension of the king’s passion for the botanical sciences: he was keen to have a home in the heart of the gardens to which he devoted so much of his time and which, by the time of his death, were among the most richly-stocked in Europe. With the exception of the French Garden, Louis XV’s beloved gardens were thoroughly overhauled to make way for new, landscaped spaces after his death. Marie-Antoinette, who had such trouble adapting to life in the court, received the Petit Trianon as a gift from Louis XVI in 1774 and developed a great attachment to this estate.
Visitors looking through the central window in the Hall of Mirrors will see the Grande Perspective stretching away towards the horizon from the Water Parterre. This unique east-west perspective originally dates from before the reign of Louis XIV, but it was developed and extended by the gardener André Le Nôtre, who widened the Royal Way and dug the Grand Canal.
In 1661 Louis XIV entrusted André Le Nôtre with the creation and renovation of the gardens of Versailles, which he considered just as important as the Palace. Work on the gardens was started at the same time as the work on the palace and lasted for 40 or so years. During this time André Le Nôtre collaborated with the likes of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Superintendant of Buildings to the King from 1664 to 1683, who managed the project, and Charles Le Brun, who was made First Painter to the King in January 1664 and provided the drawings for a large number of the statues and fountains. Last but not least, each project was reviewed by the King himself, who was keen to see “every detail”. Not long after, the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart, having been made First Architect to the King and Superintendant of Buildings, built the Orangery and simplified the outlines of the Park, in particular by modifying or opening up some of the groves.
To maintain the design, the garden needed to be replanted approximately once every 100 years. Louis XVI did so at the beginning of his reign, and the undertaking was next carried out during the reign of Napoleon III. Following damage caused by a series of storms in the late 20th century, including one in December 1999, which was the most devastating, the garden has been fully replanted and now boasts a fresh, youthful appearance similar to how it would have looked to Louis XIV.
The Royal Stables
The Great and Small Stables, commissioned by Louis XIV and built by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, constituted the greatest royal construction project for housing horses ever undertaken. Situated opposite the Palace, they mark the edge of the Place d’Armes and the start of three main avenues. The position and size of the Royal Stables testify to the importance of horses during the Ancien Régime. The names of the two buildings refer not to their size, since they are identical, but to their purpose.
Work on both buildings was launched in anticipation of the move of the Court and government to Versailles. The project was managed by architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart and was executed by an army of labourers in record time: in just three years, from 1679 to 1682. Louis XIV’s contemporaries were amazed by the scale and majesty of the stables, whose location, opposite the Palace, testifies to the important role of horses in the representation of power during the Ancien Régime.
The Great and Small Stables are symmetrical buildings on the edge of the Place d’Armes and situated on two trapezoidal plots between the three large avenues in a crow’s foot layout previously laid out by André Le Nôtre. The two buildings are identical, both built around a main courtyard with a semi-circle at one end which opened onto an indoor arena. The façades of the stables were both adorned with remarkable sculptural decoration, notably including a group of three galloping horses by Pierre Granier and Jean Raon in the tympanum of the arch in the Great Stables, and a work called the Cocher du cirque (the Circus Driver) by Louis Le Conte in the tympanum of the arch in the Small Stables.
During the reign of Louis XIV the Royal Stables were one of the most important departments in the King’s House. Nearly 1,500 men worked there, including squires, pages, coachmen, postilions, footmen, lads, messengers, chair bearers, stablemen, blacksmiths, saddlers, tack manufacturers, chaplains, musicians and horse surgeons, creating a constant hive of activity. It was a world unto itself. During the 18th century more than 2,000 horses at any one time were stabled in the Royal Stables.Today the Royal Stables are home to collections and different establishments such as the National School of Architecture of Versailles, and part of the Centre for research and restoration of the museums of France and the Equestrian Academy of Versailles. Visitors can visit the Gallery of Coaches in the Great Stables and the Sculptures and mouldings gallery in the Small Stables.