All Eyes on Versailles

Hello! Our class spent the bulk of our day today at the Chateau du Versailles, King Louis XIV's architectural masterpiece. The palace is awe-inspiring in every way, and it is nearly impossible to see or comprehend everything within. The magnitude of the structure and its adjoining gardens ensured that we were easily able to pass several hours wandering through Versailles' impressive corridors and grounds, so I cannot guarantee that I will be able to include all that we saw in this post. As with the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, however, I am more than happy to share a few highlights.

All historical facts presented herein are courtesy of 

The Palace

Versailles had relatively humble beginnings as a hunting lodge for Louis XIII in 1624. It was not until it came into the possession of Louis XIV, who gave himself the title "The Sun King," that Versailles was renovated to become an international symbol of royal luxury. It was under his control that the famous Hall of Mirrors was added in the year 1676. This gorgeous enclosure served as the ballroom space where lavish parties were held. Seventeen arches built into the wall completely covered by mirrors face seventeen similarly shaped windows that overlook the palace gardens, and rows of gaudy chandeliers hang from the incredibly detailed ceiling. Never one to be accused of modesty, Louis XIV made these mirrors the focal point of the room because of their rarity and high price at the time. Thus, all who entered the hall would be reminded of the wealth and importance of the royal family. 

The Sun King's successor, Louis XV, broke from tradition for favoring the arts over personal comfort. He converted a sizable portion of the palace, the prince's apartments, into a gallery where enormous paintings of battle scenes were displayed. Today this wing still functions as an art gallery, and visitors to Versailles are treated to the same sights that Louis XV beheld centuries earlier! 

Versailles has a much richer history than what I have detailed in this post. If you would like to read more about the fascinating chateau, you can follow the link above! 

The Gardens 

Versailles boasts some exceptionally beautiful gardens, the reach of which far outweighs that of the palace itself. Our class wandering the grounds for hours, and we were still only able to explore a fraction of the property. While there are over 100 fountains scattered throughout the gardens, there are four that are considerably larger than the rest. One of these contains several statues of golden turtles, an interesting decoration given that the Medici family also had an affinity for the same animal. It's unlikely that Louis XIV and Cosimo di Medici had similar reasons for this, however, as the latter appreciated it because it implied that his family was humble, patient, and wise. As the French royals were not known for their modesty, it is doubtful the turtles in their fountain were meant to convey the same message. 

A large, cross-shaped canal marks the middle of the gardens and extends a considerable distance on all sides. Swans can often be seen lazily floating along its waters, adding to the overall air splendor. Marie Antoinette's private quarters are nestled away in the gardens of Versailles, as are those of the notorious Madam Pompadour and other important foreign dignitaries. 

We had a wonderful day at Versailles and are grateful for the opportunity to have visited this beautiful piece of history. France has treated us well so far and we are excited to see what else it has in store. Stay tuned for more, and as always, thank you for reading. 

Your Friendly J Term Blogger,

Kate Koch 

Bust of Louis XVI
The entrance to the Hall of Mirrors
Some of the Art 290 students managed to take a pretty classy mirror selfie in the Hall of Mirrors
The Gardens
The turtle fountain at dusk