Let me begin by saying that it really took me until the end of the tour that I was really at the Palace of Versailles. Versailles was definitely one of my top highlights of my stay in France. Everything was covered in gold and sculpted in a way that was unique from the buildings in Paris. Before I left for Europe, I was in the middle of learning about the three Louis that occupied the Palace during the 17th-18th century. On the tour, I was able to connect and really set myself in history.
Each Louis had a completely different personality and story, which really gave Versailles a rich history. Before I begin telling you about my Versailles experience, let me give you a little history lesson on the three Louis’.
The first Louis was Louis XIV. He became King at the age of four but had no power. His father had a regency council to rule for him at the time being until he was old enough to rule. When Louis began his reign, he decided to leave Paris and built Versailles as a hunting lodge. He would spend his day as King, hunting animals and lodging around Versailles to get away from the government in Paris. Soon after, Louis decided to move the government of France out of Paris and into Versailles. It ultimately turned the hunting lodge into a Palace and the place for government. His reign lasted 72 years until his death in 1715.
Louis XV was known for enjoying the Palace. He succeeded the throne from his great-grandfather, Louis the XIV. Before he reached the maturity to reign, the kingdom was ruled by his great-uncle Phillippe II. Louis’ reigned lasted from September 1, 1715- May 10, 1774.
Louis XVI was the last Louis to live in Versailles. His years of King were not the greatest, hence why people say “Louis XVI had to pay.” It was during the end of the Ancien Regime where the infamous storm of the Bastille took place and the women march to Versailles. It was the beginning the French Revolution and revolt against the King and his government. Louis ultimately met his fate, when he attempted to escape France and enter Austria. His journey cut short in Varennes, France, where he was arrested and sent back to Paris. Louis XVI was found guilty of treason and was beheaded at the guillotine. His reign lasted from May 10, 1774- September 4, 1791.
To recap this mini history lesson. Louis XIV built Versailles. Louis XV enjoyed it. Louis XVI paid for it.
I learned a lot about Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI and even got to see what their bedrooms looked like. What I found very interesting was that the King and Queen did not share the same bedroom. Marie Antoinette, however, had a secret door that blended into the walls that lead to Louis XVI’s room.
The second thing I found interesting was Louis XIV’s bedroom. Since he is known as the Sun King, his bed directly faced a window where the Sun would shine upon him. Not even just that, there were symbols of the Sun everywhere! From the doors to the gates, there was a little design of a sun to represent Louis XIV.
At the Palace, there are seven salons in the King’s Grand Apartment. The salons are rooms that are all named after the Greek Antiquity and the Solar Planets. Each room had its own style, filled with different paintings and historical artifacts that represented not only the King of France but the Gods and Goddesses. The vaults in each salon were sculpted and painted differently, in order to express their stories through the masterpiece. In addition, a sculpture or a bust of a God or Goddess would be present in the salon.
The first salon we entered was the Hercules salon, which was in fact, the last salon to be created. During the reign of Louis XV, the salon was used as a chapel until it was replaced by the present chapel today. The painted vault on the ceiling was to depict the Apotheosis of Hercules, which was to show that “virtue raises man above himself.“
Moving on to the second salon; the second salon was the Abundance Salon, used for refreshments. The salon was also used to display silverware vases, gems, and medals that were kept and inspired the decors on the vault. When entering, you could see the Great Royal Vessel depicted above the doorway, representing power to which everyone had to salute to.
The next salon we entered was the Venus salon. The Venus salon had a very baroque style to it and also formed an entrance to the Grand Apartment, following the Diana Salon. The vault was depicted to represent the actions of the Ancient heroes and Louis XIV, but also the Goddess of Love tied to Venus. Right after the Venus Salon was the Diana. In Greek Antiquity, Diana is the known as the Hunting Goddess. The vault was decorated to represent the scenes of the hunting heroes of the Antiquity and was also reserved for women to applaud the King at the Games; hence why it is also known as the Chamber of Applause.
Following the Diana salon, the brother salon was next. Apollo was the Sun God and the brother of Diana. The Apollo Salon was dedicated to Louis XIV, to which I mentioned earlier, was known as the Sun King. The vaults and the decors are completely gilded and a portrait of the King is displayed on the east end of the salon.
The last two salons we entered were the Mars and Mercury salon. In Greek Antiquity, Mars is the God of War. Inspired by the military theme, the paintings on the vault depicted Mars on a chariot drawn by wolves. Before entering the salon, there were four paintings above the door shown to represent Temperance, Prudence, Justice and Force.
Finally, the last salon Mercury. The Mercury Salon was originally the parade chamber of the Grand Apartment. The vaults are painted to represent Mercury on his chariot drawn by two cocks, and on each side of the walls, four paintings are shown to represent Augustus receiving an embassy of Indians, Ptolemaeus Philadelphia in his library, and Alexander and Aristotle receiving from the prince, various foreign animals whose history he writes.
To recap the experiences in the salon, I enjoyed learning about the Greek Antiquity and seeing the different personality of each salon. The vaults were a fascinating part, especially since they depict the stories of the Greek Gods and Goddesses.
Moving on to the Hall of Mirrors; also known as La Grande Galerie. The Hall of Mirrors is the central gallery used a passageway, waiting room, and meeting place. Going back into history, it was a very significant room during the First World War. At the end of the war in 1919, the famous peace treaty, Treaty of Versailles, was signed to end the State of War between Germany and the Allied Powers. Moreover, the Hall of Mirror itself contains 357 mirrors, 17 glass doors and requires 3,000 candles to light up all of the chandeliers.
NOW THE GARDEN. Some parts of the garden were closed off, however, it was still an eye-catcher. From the outside looking at the Palace, the Palace is huge including the Garden! If I was a billionaire, I would definitely have my wedding there, but the experience from the outside was incredible! Words cannot even explain how beautiful the garden was and how it really made Versailles ten times bigger.
At the end of our tour at Versailles, we headed back to downtown Paris. One day I will definitely come back and visit Versailles.