One of the most recognised and opulent palaces in the world, Versailles is a wonder to behold. Built in the 17th century, it became the seat of power in France’s monarchy when Louis XIV moved the court from Paris until the French Revolution. With famous residents such as Marie Antoinette and historic events occurring within its walls, Versailles is one of France’s most important cultural landmarks. Read on to find out more about this UNESCO World Heritage Site with our top facts about Versailles.
The Hall of Mirrors is renowned for its stunning, sparkling design as well as being the site where the Treaty of Versailles was signed and brought an end to the First World War. When fully lit, it’s illuminated with 3000 candles and is covered in a total of 357 Venetian mirrors.
Spread over 30,000 acres, the land on which the Palace of Versailles was built on was rich with hunting game and became a popular spot for royalty to go hunting. King Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, particularly loved the place and in the 17th century commissioned more than 3000 workers to transform a pre-existing hunting lodge into the iconic landmark it is today.
The sheer scale of the grounds comes with a hefty price tag, with over 700 rooms, 60 staircases and 1200 fireplaces. In the gardens alone, there are 400 sculptures and 1400 fountains while over 5000 separate pieces of furniture are arranged within the palace.
Venice had a monopoly on mirror making in the 17th century, however a few select artisans were convinced to come to France and work on the Palace of Versailles. Terrified that they would share their knowledge with the French and threaten Venice’s lauded position, the Venetian government ordered their assassination.
The construction of the Palace of Versailles was seen as a national project, with a stipulation that everything had to be of French-make. This extended to the art, tapestries and mirrors that line its walls.
Stage fright was a term that simply wasn’t in King Louis XIV’s dictionary and he turned even the most mundane tasks in his life into a ceremony, which were attended by fellow nobles. These ceremonies even included him going to sleep and putting on his hunting boots.
As a symbol of the monarchy, the palace was heavily scrutinised and became a site of protest for the French public. Many priceless pieces of art were moved to the Louvre instead.
Louis XIV was known for being something of a playboy and as punishment for his affairs, the church would occasionally deny him and his mistresses communion during mass.
The queen built a mini palace named the Petit Trianon and created a little French town around it, which included servants quarters, a farm and more. She also created a Temple of Love which features a statue of Cupid.
The distance from the kitchen to the dining areas was so widespread that a good, hot meal never stood a chance. Even with hundreds of servants employed in just the kitchen, Louis XIV frequently ate cold dishes.
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