Chateau de Versailles and the Park (1979)

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The principal residence of the Kings of France from Louis XIV to Louis XVI, the Versailles palace, embellished by several generations of architects, sculptors, decorators and landscape architects, has for more than a century provided Europe with the very model of a royal residence. 

France 1970. King Louis ,XIV, king of France from 1643, overlooking the Castle of Versailles. France 1997.  Chateau de Versailles.

The royal palace of Versailles, south-west of Paris, is probably the most famous in Europe and closely associated with Louis XIV, the Sun King.  It is now a national museum. A royal hunting lodge had existed at Versailles, within easy reach of Paris, in the reign of Louis XIII.  In 1631 work began on the construction of a chateau on the site of the present palace. Louis XIV, who ascended the French throne as a boy in 1643, began building work at Versailles in 1661, with Louis Le Vau as principal architect.  The work was confined largely to the adaptation of the existing chateau, but the new menagerie and orangery formed the first stage of a grand entry court.  A second building phase, beginning in 1668, subsumed the original chateau into an entirely new building, formed around the new Royal Court. 

France 1956. Le Grand Trianon. France 1954. Forged iron gate entry to Versailles. France 1938. Chateau de Versailles.

The gardens of Versailles were designed by the landscape architect André le Nôtre during the 17th century.

France 2001. The Gardens of Versailles.

France 1952. Sculptures on the edges of "Le Bassin de Diane" in the Versailles Gardens. .

A third building campaign, involving over 30,000 labourers and craftsmen, was initiated in 1678 and continued for a decade; in 1682, Louis XIV transferred the seat of power from Paris to Versailles.  The architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart built the enormously long north and south wings.  Not until 1699 was the large chapel seriously begun and it was not consecrated until 1710. (The decoration was completed after the king’s death in 1715.)  The opera house at Versailles was designed by Jacques-Ange Gabriel and built for Louis XV. Under Louis XVI plans were made to extend the palace further and an architectural competition for a new master plan was held in 1783.  The French Revolution, however, intervened. The furnishings of Versailles were sold off and the palace turned into a museum.  The symmetrical plan of the Royal Court was finally realized in 1820 under Louis XVIII. 

In 1784 the Swedish King Gustav III visited France, and the French Court celebrated his visit at Le Petit Trianon. The stamps were issued as a joint issue between France and Sweden in connection with the celebration of the cultural liaison between the two countries.  The painting was created in 1784 by the Swedish painter Niclas Lafrensen the Younger (1737-1807), who is known in France as Nicolas Lavreince, and the title is "Celebration for Gustave III at the Trianon". 

France 1994. Le Petit Trianon in the Park of Versailles. Sweden 1994. Le Petit Trianon in the Gardens of Versailles.

During the 19th and 20th centuries Versailles underwent major restoration work and some of the original contents have been reinstated.  The numerous magnificent interiors include the Hall of Mirrors, where the German Empire was proclaimed in 1871 after France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War; the Salon of Hercules; and the bedroom of Marie Antoinette.  The gardens and park, focusing on the Grand Canal, contain many monuments, sculptures, and subsidiary buildings, including the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon.  The latter, a favoured residence of Marie Antoinette, dates from 1762-1768. 

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage Sites in France (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section France for further information on the individual properties.  

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Revised 09 sep 2007  
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