A Pedacito of Versailles, France
Updated: Jun 19
The Palace of Versailles is a historical and cultural landmark located about an hour outside of Paris by train. From 1682 to 1789, it was the primary royal residency of the French monarchy until the start of the French Revolution. Listed as a World Heritage site for 30 years, it is considered to be one of the greatest achievements of French 17th century art. Welcome to Versailles.
The palace is located in what was once the small, rural village of Versailles, France. In 1673, Louis XIV destroyed it to make way for his new vision of the town and plans for a more luxurious residence. There are currently 2,300 rooms spread over a 63,145 m² area, complete with the apartments of past French aristocracy and sprawling royal gardens. After Louis XIV returned to Paris for the revolution, Versailles was officially assigned to be the Museum of the History of France. Since then, the rooms of the palace were denoted to specific collections of art, important historical events, and notable figures in French history.
Versailles leaves no trace of the rural village it replaced with European ornamentations on every surface, grand canvas paintings of nobles, stone staircases, and marble floors. Everywhere you turn you are met with artistic masterpieces and architecture that reflects the opulence of the French monarchy. The palace is constructed in a linear fashion, which makes it easy to follow the path of the rooms and view over 60,000 pieces of artwork.
You’ll walk through a few key, larger areas as well as through smaller bedrooms called apartments. One very notable apartment is that of Marie Antionette called the Queen’s State Apartment. But the palace can be divided into four major sections: the Gallery of Battles, the Grand Apartments, the Royal Chapel, and the Upper Stone Gallery.
The Gallery of Battles
The Gallery of Battles was commissioned by King Louis-Philippe when Versailles was officially turned into a museum. The hall features a major series of historic paintings of French battle scenes, busts of notable French generals, and an overhead skylight spanning the length of the vaulted ceiling. It successfully encompasses King Louis-Philippe's desire for national reconciliation and his dedication of the artwork “to all the glories of France.”
The Grand Apartments
The Grand Apartments feature two key rooms in Versailles Palace: the King’s Chamber and the Hall of Mirrors. But it is actually made up of seven rooms that were used to host the sovereign’s official acts. The Hall of Mirrors is arguably the most famous part of the palace and overlooks the sprawling gardens and fountains below. It was typically used for waiting and meeting, though sometimes also hosted lavish ceremonies.
The Royal Chapel
The Royal Chapel was the last building constructed during the reign of Louis XIV, the original commissioner of Versailles Palace. It is dedicated to Saint Louis, the king’s own patron saint and ancestor. The chapel is inspired by Gothic architecture, featuring large glass windows, buttresses, and a vaulted ceiling with a mural dedicated to the Holy Trinity.
The Upper Stone Gallery
Located at the beginning of the tour, the Upper Stone Gallery features a unique collection of architectural projects that were actually intended for the palace gardens. Compared to other parts of the palace, the Upper Stone Gallery architecture has cleaner, simpler lines and utilizes less ornamentation. The tiled black and white floors are lined with sculptures of French noblemen staring endlessly out the paned glass doors overlooking the gardens.
A visit to Versailles is a great day trip and is easily accessed by train in less than an hour from Paris. It is the perfect way to experience a true blend of French history, art, and culture. I suggest going when the weather is favorable so you can take full advantage of the palace’s interior and its enormous gardens.
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