Versailles (World Heritage)

The prototype of the absolutist ruler’s residence became the model for many European residential castles. In the midst of a spacious park, the baroque building erected under the “Sun King” Louis XIV (1638–1715) served to showcase power and royal splendor.

Versailles: facts

Official title: Versailles Palace and Park
Cultural monument: royal residence and others with the castle church, the Hercules salon, the salons of Mars and the war with the famous stucco depicting Louis XIV on horseback, the 73 m long hall of mirrors on the first floor of the west facade, the chambers of the queens, the opera and the library of Louis XVI. as well as the park with the large basins, the Latona and Apollo basins, the large marble staircase and the orangery
Continent: Europe
Country: France
Location: Versailles, southwest of Paris
Appointment: 1979
Meaning: the residence of French kings from Louis XIV to Louis XVI, for centuries the epitome of a European royal court

Versailles: history

1610-43 under Louis XIII. Construction of a castle
1643 Louis XIV ascends the throne
from 1661 under Louis XIV. Conversion of the castle and the park by the horticulturist Le Nôtre, the architect Le Vau and the court painter Le Brun
1699-1710 Construction of the castle church
1715 Death of the “Sun King” Louis XIV.
1722 Louis XV (1710-74) takes Versailles as his residence
1733-46 Ceiling painting in the Hercules Salon by the court painter Lemoyne
1770 Completion of the opera
1833-37 set up as a national museum
June 28, 1919 Signing of the Versailles Peace Treaty to end the First World War in the Hall of Mirrors
2007 Restoration of the hall of mirrors
until 2017 extensive restoration work

The geometry of power

“I am the state” – this sentence of the French Sun King Louis XIV, which at first glance seems excessive, was in a certain way an expression of the actual social conditions in the age of absolutism: the monarch was, unlike in the Middle Ages, as the absolute absolute ruler Structure with strong sovereign princes still dependent on the participation or approval of independent political bodies. The king gathered thousands of noblemen and servants around his person; he received hundreds of nobles every day in order to bind them to himself by conferring offices and honors.

An appropriate, representative framework was required for this holding of the court. Louis XIV, who had become king at the age of five and took over the government at the age of 23, decided to expand Versailles: with the small hunting lodge that was built under Louis XIII. had been erected in a swampy area at the gates of Paris, happy childhood memories were linked for him. Inspired architects such as Louis Le Vau, Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Robert de Cotte, the ingenious horticultural master André Le Nôtre and over 20,000 workers created a palace and park complex in a gigantic effort that became a model for residential buildings throughout Europe. The construction work dragged on for almost five decades. When Louis XIV was able to enter the castle church for the first time, he was already 72 years old.

According to aristmarketing, versailles was the residence of the kings of France for only a good hundred years, from 1682 to the French Revolution in 1789. Louis XV, the successor of the Sun King, who no longer saw himself only as a public figure, had a few private rooms set up, a smaller palace built next to the Great Trianon and the gardens expanded.

Louis XVI made only a few changes to the main building and set up an English garden for his wife Marie-Antoinette with an idyllic artificial village with a farm, dairy, mill and pigeon house. In essence, the Versailles complex has presented itself to this day as a magnificent “geometry of power”. Wide streets lead to the elevated main building, a symmetrical three-wing complex with three tiered courtyards, which was imitated on a much smaller scale in countless baroque palaces – especially by the German Duodec princes. From the rear, the view opens into the park, which with its artificial canals, terraces and fountains creates a splendid framework for the palace and continues its structural monumentality into the landscape.

The most famous interior of Versailles is the Hall of Mirrors, a gallery lavishly decorated by Charles Le Brun. It takes its name from the 17 mirrors that are mounted exactly opposite the round windows that reach down to the floor and create an almost unreal shine. Louis XIV had the hall furnished after the Peace of Nijmegen, which confirmed his supremacy in Europe in 1678.

In the room the courtiers paid their respects to the monarch; Festivities rarely took place here. In 1871, the Prussian King Wilhelm I redesigned the hall for a strange celebration: after the victory in the Franco-Prussian War, he was proclaimed Emperor of the newly founded German Empire here. In 1919, after the German defeat in World War I and the fall of the Wilhelmine Empire, the Versailles Peace Treaty was finally signed in the Hall of Mirrors.

Versailles (World Heritage)