Palace and Park of Versailles
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member RakeInTheCache
N 48° 48.229 E 002° 07.458
31U E 435698 N 5406017
Quick Description: The Palace of Versailles was the principal residence of the French kings from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI.
Location: France
Date Posted: 10/11/2006 1:40:56 PM
Waymark Code: WMTXC
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Tervas
Views: 185

Long Description:
The Château de Versailles, or simply Versailles, is a royal château in Versailles, France. In English it is often referred to as the Palace of Versailles. When the château was built, Versailles was a country village, but it is now a suburb of Paris with city status in its own right. From 1682, when King Louis XIV moved from Paris, until the royal family was forced to return to the capital in 1789, the Court of Versailles was the centre of power in Ancien Régime France.

In 1660, Louis XIV, who was approaching majority and the assumption of full royal powers from the advisors who had governed France during his minority, was casting about for a site near Paris but away from the tumults and diseases of the crowded city. He had grown up in the disorders of the civil war between rival factions of aristocrats called the Fronde and wanted a site where he could organize and completely control a government of France by absolute personal rule. He settled on the royal hunting lodge at Versailles, and over the following decades had it expanded into the largest palace in Europe. Versailles is famous not only as a building, but as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy which Louis XIV espoused.

In 1575, Albert de Gondi, a Florentine, purchased the seigneury of Versailles. Gondi had arrived in France with Catherine de Medici and his family became influential in the French Parliament. In the early decades of the 17th century, Gondi invited Louis XIII on several hunting trips in the forests of Versailles. Following this initial introduction to the area, Louis XIII ordered the construction of a hunting chateaux in 1624. Designed by Philibert Le Roy, the structure was constructed of stone and red brick with a slate roof. Eight years later, in 1632, Louis obtained the seignury of Versailles from the Gondi family and began to make enlargements to the chateaux.

Louis' successor, Louis XIV, took a great interest in Versailles. Beginning in 1661, the architect, Louis Le Vau, and the landscape architect, André Le Nôtre, began a major upgrade of the chateaux. It was Louis XIV's hope to create a center for the royal court. Following the Treaty of Nijmegen in 1678, the court and French government began to be moved to Versailles. The court was officially established there on 6 May 1682.

Louis's reasoning for moving the court and seat of the French government to Versailles was that he could effectively control everything single-handedly if it was in one place. All the power of France emanated from this centre: there were government offices here; as well as the homes of thousands of courtiers, their retinues and all the attendant functionaries of court. By requiring that nobles of a certain rank and position spend time each year at Versailles, Louis prevented them from developing their own regional power at the expense of his own and kept them from countering his efforts to centralize the French government in an absolute monarchy.

The palace grew through a series of expansions wrapped around the original modest hunting lodge, which still remains at its heart. This led to a certain incongruity in the architecture, as the centrepiece of the palace is not in scale with its final dimensions. In 1661 Louis Le Vau made some additions which he developed further in 1668. In 1678 Mansart took over the work, the Galerie des Glaces, the chapel and the two wings being due to him. On 6 May 1682 Louis XIV took up residence in the château. Furnishings had been plundered from Louis' disgraced finance minister's Nicolas Fouquet splendid house at Vaux-le-Vicomte, whose grand success there was his undoing.

The grounds of Versailles contain one of the largest formal gardens ever created, with extensive parterres, fountains and canals, designed by André Le Nôtre. Le Nôtre modified the original gardens by expanding them and giving them a sense of openness and scale. He created a plan centered around the central axis of the Grand Canal. The gardens are centered on the south front of the palace, which is set on a long terrace to give a grand view of the gardens. At the foot of the steps the Fountain of Latona is located. This fountain tells a story taken from Ovid's poem Metamorphoses. Next, is the Royal Avenue or the Tapis Vert. Surrounding this to the sides are the formal gardens. Beyond this is the Fountain of Apollo. This fountain symbolizes the rising regime of the Sun King. Beyond the Fountain lies the massive Grand Canal. Wide wide central axis rises on the far side. Even farther into the distance lie the dense woods of the King's hunting grounds.

Several smaller buildings were added to the park of Versailles, starting with Louis XIV's Grand Trianon (originally the Porcelain Trianon), continuing with additions by Louis XV and Louis XVI including the Petit Trianon, and the Hamlet of Marie Antoinette known as the Petit hameau.

Versailles ignited a competitive spate of building palaces in fountain-filled gardens among the power elite of Europe, not all of them kings.

The most direct homage to Versailles was at the request of Ludwig II of Bavaria when he asked for a nearly identical copy of Versailles, Herrenchiemsee, to be built on an island on the bucolic Chiemsee lake in the countryside of Bavaria. His funds ran out too soon but the central portion was finished, along with its hall of mirrors, and formal French gardens were planted around it.

An impressive effort was made by Peter I of Russia. He visited Versailles during the "Grand Embassy" and later decided to build a residence in the outskirts of Saint Petersburg he had the Peterhof complex of buildings in gardens and parks built.

Efforts in England included renovations at Hampton Court, and the all-but-royal Chatsworth. The direct British answer to Versailles is Blenheim Palace, built as a national monument for Louis' nemesis, the Duke of Marlborough.

Several other large palaces were also created throughout Europe, but the degree that they were inspired by, or copied from Versailles cannot be known definitively.

In the courts of Germany, several Versailles-like palaces were constructed, including Wilhelmshöhe at Kassel, Schloss Augustusburg in Brühl, Ludwigsburg, Herrenhausen, Schloss Schleissheim and the Residenz in Würzburg.

In Sweden, there is Drottningholm, in Austria Schönbrunn, and in Hungary Eszterháza.

In Italy, the "would-be Versailles" include Caserta Palace, Colorno and Stupinigi.

In the Iberian peninsula two competitors for Versailles stand out: La Granja near Madrid, and Queluz in Portugal.

Poland also had Lazienki and Branicki palaces.

Type: Building

Reference number: 83

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