Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Versailles: The Chateau and Gardens of Versailles

Transport yourselves back into the period of the Sun King, Louis XIV and imagine the King, Queen and their courtiers gossiping, dancing, flirting and plotting intrigue.

The Chateau and Gardens of Versailles has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979: The Chateau was the principal residence of the French kings from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI. Embellished by several generations of architects, sculptors, decorators and landscape architects, it provided Europe with a model of the ideal royal residence for over a century.

The Chateau of Versailles was transformed from a hunting lodge built by King Louis XIII, into an extravagant palace over a period of 50 years. It was Louis XIV who set out to build a palace that would be the envy of Europe, and where he could keep an eye on the Nobles of France, where he summoned them to live at his court.

However it was Louis XVI who was the last king to live in the Chateau, mainly due to the Queen’s frivolous spending that led to their downfall. Marie Antoinette and Louis XIV were at Versailles on October 6, 1789 when they were notified of the hungry mobs marching towards the palace. The people of Paris were hungry as there was high unemployment and the cost of food to high for the general populace to afford. It was on this date that the Royal family was forced to leave Versailles and move to the Tuileries Palace in Paris.

The magnificent Grand Appartements are in the Louis XIV style, each named after the allegorical painting on the room’s ceiling. The most famous room at Versailles is the 71m long Hall of Mirrors, begun by Mansart in 1698 in the Louis XIV style, decorated by Le Brun with 17 arched windows faced by beveled mirrors in simulated arcades.

Gardens of Versailles: From the central window of the Hall of Mirrors, provides onlookers with a grand perspective that leads the gaze from the Water Parterre to the horizon. Two large rectangular pools reflect the sunlight and light up the façade of the Hall of Mirrors.

The Orangerie with its wide space, high trees and pure lines is one of the crowning achievements of Jules Hardouin-Mansart which best shows his talent as a great architect. Some of the orange trees from Portugal, Spain and Italy, and lemon and pomegranate trees are over 200 years old. They are kept indoors here in winter before being spread during the summer on its flowerbed.

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