The Palace of Versailles, or simply Versailles , is a royal château in Versailles in the Île-de-France region of France, approximately 15 miles southwest of Paris. It is also known as the Château de Versailles.
The Palace of Versailles cover an area of 8,150,265 square meters (87,728,720 square feet), or 2,014 acres, making it the World’s Largest Royal Domain.
The palace itself contains 67,002 square meters (721,206 square feet) of floorspace.
The palace was built in the 17th century for King Louis XIV, The Sun King, who was France’s King at the time.
The court of Versailles was the center of political power in France for little more than a century (from 1682 until 1789) when the French Revolution began.
Versailles is there fore famous not only as a building, but as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy of the Ancien Régime.
The palace was almost destroyed during the French Revolution, as a result of which, its importance and utility decreased.
In the 19th century the “Museum of the History of France” was founded in Versailles, at the behest of Louis-Philippe I, who ascended to the throne in 1830.
One of the most famous rooms is the Hall of Mirrors.It has 17 huge mirrored arches opposite 17 windows. Each one of the arch contains 21 mirrors, which makes it a massive 357 in all. The hall is 73 meters (239.5 feet) long, 10.5 meters (34.4 feet) wide, and 12.3 meters (40.4 feet) high. The ceilings of the hall have intricate paintings and the borders of the wall are decorated with gilded statues. The several glass chandeliers that hang from its ceiling, are another beautiful aspect of the hall. On special occasions, the Hall of Mirrors was lit with as many as 20,000 candles to transform it into a “corridor of light”.
There had been four chapels earlier, the present chapel of Versailles is the fifth, consecrated to Saint Louis (or Louis IX of France) patron saint of the Bourbons, was finally finished in 1710. While sometimes called Baroque, the chapel is more restrained that Italian Baroque churches, with none of the curves and undulations associated with this theatrical architecture. In some ways the chapel also seems Gothic, given its narrow and high nave, stained glass, and vaulted ceiling.
The Grand Apartments of the king and queen, built for Louis XIV by Le Vau in the 1670s. The King’s Apartments – or Grands Appartements du Roi – are a succession of salons dedicated to the gods and planets, used for court functions.
The opulent Queen’s Apartments include the private rooms and the golden queen’s bedchamber, whose hidden door was used by Marie-Antoinette to escape the Paris mob during the early days of the Revolution.
The Royal Opera of Versailles or L’Opéra Royal de Versailles, is the main theatre and opera house of the Palace of Versailles. Designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, it is also known as the Théâtre Gabriel. The interior decoration by Augustin Pajou is constructed almost entirely of wood, painted to resemble marble in a technique known as faux marble. The excellent acoustics of the opera house are at least partly due to its wooden interior. It can accommodate more than 700 people at a time.
The Garden of Versailles is spread across 1,976 acres, and is one of the biggest gardens in the world. 210,000 flowers and 200,000 trees are planted annually in The Garden of Versailles. In 1979, the gardens along with the château were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The most acclaimed example of formal French garden design, Versailles’ vast chateau gardens are famed for their geometrically aligned terraces, tree-lined paths, ponds and canals.
The marvel of the gardens of Versailles – then as now – is the fountains.It has 50 spectacular fountains with 620 jets, which were installed to entertain the guests. A lot of these fountains still use the same hydraulics network, which was built by the Royal Family.
The golden gate of the Palace of Versailles has been replaced in 2008. These gates were destroyed by the common people during the French revolution. Replicas of the 80-metre steel gate decorated with 100,000 gold leaves were made with help of private donors contributed 5 million euros (8 million dollars).
It took 36,000 workers to construct the palace, along with its gardens. After its completion, it could accommodate as many as 5,000 people at a time.
The Palace of Versailles has a total number of 2,153 windows, 1,200 fireplaces, 700 rooms, over 67 staircases.
A lot of the furniture and artwork in the palace was sold or moved to the museums during the French Revolution. It was only during the palace’s restoration that the original artwork was placed in the palace’s museum.
The Palace of Versailles was decorated with valuable paintings and works of art. It contained an estimated 6,000 paintings and 5,000 pieces of furniture and other objects.
King Louis XIV spent one third of the total building budget of the palace, on its fountains alone.
The gardens of Versailles have approximatly 400 sculptures.
The kitchens of the palace alone had hundreds of servants, in spite of which the King’s meals were often served cold, due to the distance between the kitchen and the dining room.
Actual building costs for Versailles are debated by modern historians, because currency values are uncertain. However, Versailles’ price tag ranges anywhere from two billion dollars (in 1994 USD) all the way up to a maximum cost of $299,520,000,000!
More than 4 million people visit Versailles each year.
The creation of the gardens of Versailles is the context for a film directed by Alan Rickman and released in 2015, in which Kate Winslet plays a fictional landscape gardener and Rickman plays King Louis XIV.