Palace of Versailles-
On Saturday I visited the Palace of Versailles. It is slightly outside the city of Paris, but it can be easily accessed by the RER, which is a train system similar to the Boston/MBTA Commuter Rail (but their trains are nicer). I got an early start to the day because the Palace gets really busy in the afternoon and I had plans to walk around Paris with Sam later in the day.
The Palace of Versailles began as a hunting lodge commissioned by King Louis XIII in 1624. The original structure, which is smaller than what can be seen today, was designed by Philibert Le Roy and was made of red brick. Only eight years later Louis XIII enlarged the château.
Versailles was enlarged again under Louis XIV, the successor to Louis XIII. The first Louis XIV enlargements were begun in 1661 under the architect Louis Le Vau, landscape architect André Le Nôtre, and painter Charles Lebrun. The reasoning behind these expansions was Louis XIV’s wish to establish a new location for the French royal court. This occurred officially on May 6, 1682. By moving his court to Versailles, Louis was able to keep more control over it and to distance the court from the citizens of Paris. To keep even more control, Louis XIV required his high-ranking nobles to each spend a part of the year at court, which prevented them from spending too much time in their own home regions. Furthermore, many elaborate rules and rituals were established for the French court to put Louis XIV in an even greater position of power.
Under Louis XIV there were four building campaigns to enlarge Versailles. The first campaign occurred from 1664-1668 and added more space for guests as well as made the gardens larger. The second building campaign (1669-1672) enclosed the original hunting lodge on three sides and created two large apartments, one for the king and one for the queen. A terrace was also added that would later become the famous Hall of Mirrors. The third campaign (1678-1684) was done under the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart. This is when the Hall of Mirrors was constructed, as well as the new North and South Wings. The gardens were further expanded as well. Finally, the fourth building campaign (1688-1697) created the royal chapel.
Louis XIV died in 1715, leaving Louis XV, only five years old, as ruler of France. The court moved back to Paris until 1722, when it returned to Versailles. Louis XV renovated many of the apartments and created new ones for the ever-expanding court. The only notable change to the gardens made under Louis XV was the construction of the Bassin de Neptune (1738-1741).
Finally, Louis XVI finished many of the projects left by Louis XIV. More notably, Louis XVI also completely renovated the gardens, forming them into the English-inspired style that was popular during the late eighteenth century.