Thursday, August 16, 2012

Day 2 continued - Paris

This afternoon we could either stay in Paris and come back to the boat by ourselves, stay on board or take an optional tour to either the Louvre or Versailles Palace. We chose to go to Versailles.

It was a very hot and sunny day and we were grateful that we had a guide so we didn't have to wait outside in the mile long line queuing for tickets, but instead could walk right through into the coolness of the Palace.

The town of Versailles sits about 20 kilometers outside of Paris. The first mention of the town and estate was in 1038, when the name appeared in a charter of the Abbey of Saint-Père de Chartres. By the end of the
11th century, Versailles was a country village enveloping a castle and the church of Saint-Julien, remaining prosperous until well into the 13th century. After the Hundred Years War, however, only a handful of people lived there.

After the Revolution, Napoleon spent his summers at Versailles until he abdicated. Later, it was Louis-Phillipe who, in 1830, transformed the chateau into a grand museum, dedicated to "the glory of France." The Chapel, the Opera, and the Hall of Mirrors were preserved but many smaller apartments were destroyed to make room for spacious exhibition halls. In the 1960s, however, curator Pierre Verlet was responsible for getting some of the furnishings back and restoring a number of the royal apartments.

In the 16th century, the Gondi family became the rulers of Versailles and the town began to gain acclaim when future King Louis XIII visited and became enamored with the site. He purchased land in the area and proceeded to build a small brick and stone lodge there in 1622.

Ten years later, he became the lord of Versailles and began enlarging his lodge. Soon, he purchased more land as well as Gondi's estate. Louis XIII dies in 1643.

In 1662, the new king - Louis XIV - took an earnest interest in Versailles. Louis XIV, also known as The Sun King, distrusted the Parisians and wanted to move his Royal Residence away from the Louvre Palace, which was at the heart of constant political turbulence. The Sun King was largely responsible for the expansion that resulted in the building that still stands today. He hired architect Louis Le Vau along with artist Charles Le Brun to carry out the work on this Baroque masterpiece, which became the quintessential model for all palaces in Europe. Famed gardener André le Nôtre was responsible for the unequalled Versailles Garden.

The Hall of Mirrors - Some call this Louis XIV's most notable contribution to Versailles. The main feature of the hall is the seventeen mirrored arches that reflect the seventeen arcaded windows which look out onto Versailles equally- magnificent garden. Each arch contains twenty-one mirrors, for a total of 357 in all. This magnificent hall measures 73 meters long, 10.5 meters wide, and 12.3 meters high (240x34x40ft). Statues and busts line the walls. The Hall of Mirrors has always played an important role in history including in 1919, as the First World War officially ended when Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles in this hall.

The Grand Apartment - Originally known as the Apartment of the Planets (the 7 salons of this apartment each featured a painting of a planet), this was King Louis XIV's apartment. While the entire apartment and all its salons are amazing, most notable are the ceilings, painted by Painter to the King, Charles Le Brun and his team of artists.

King Louis XIV

1 comment:

  1. This brings back such good memories! France is probably my favourite country of all - leaving aside NZ of course.
    Have a great week!


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