Viking Cruise: Versailles, France
The Viking 'Spirit' arrived in Conflans at 11:30PM, so when we woke up, we were already moored. Our tour today was the Palace at Versailles, which departed at 8AM - other passengers opted for shopping in Conflans. This was another bus tour, however, it was a short ride of 29 kilometers.
Once the tour entered the building, we initially stayed with the Viking Tour Group, however due to the immense crowd that day and because the group was moving so slowly, we split away and took the grandparents on our own tour. We were able to move more quickly through the Palace, and then we visited the Trianon area and the immense gardens.
Click the "map link" above to view a Google Map of Versaille's location. Below are a few interesting facts for you.
- The site of the Palace was first occupied by a small village and church, surrounded by forests filled with abundant game. It was owned by the Gondi family and the priory of Saint Julian. King Henry IV went hunting there in 1589, and returned in 1604 and 1609, staying in the village inn. His son, the future Louis XIII, came on his own hunting trip there in 1607.
- After he became King in 1610, Louis XIII returned to the village, bought some land, and in 1623-24 built a modest two-story hunting lodge on the site of the current marble courtyard.
- The palace was largely completed by the death of Louis XIV in 1715.
- The eastern facing palace has a U-shaped layout, with the corps de logis and symmetrical advancing secondary wings terminating with the Dufour Pavilion on the south and the Gabriel Pavilion to the north, creating an expansive cour d'honneur known as the Royal Court (Cour Royale).
- Flanking the Royal Court are two enormous asymmetrical wings that result in a facade of 402 metres (1,319 ft) in length.
- Encompassing 67,000 square metres (721,182 sq ft) the palace has 700 rooms, more than 2,000 windows, 1,250 fireplaces and 67 staircases.
- Versailles covers 2,014 acres, including 230 acres of gardens.
- The smell of the gardens was so strong, it made visitors ill
- The palace is a Monument historique and UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Marie Antoinette had a private romantic hideaway on the grounds
- In 2017 the Palace of Versailles received 7,700,000 visitors, making it the second-most visited monument in the Île-de-France region, just behind the Louvre and ahead of the Eiffel Tower.
Looking west from just outside the Hall of Mirrors; that is the rear right side of the Versailles residence building where the Hall of Battles is located, and the Palace Garden areas below.
In 1661 Louis XIV entrusted André Le Nôtre with the creation and renovation of the gardens of Versailles, which he considered just as important as the Palace. Work on the gardens was started at the same time as the work on the palace and lasted for 40 or so years. During this time André Le Nôtre collaborated with the likes of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Superintendant of Buildings to the King from 1664 to 1683, who managed the project, and Charles Le Brun, who was made First Painter to the King in January 1664 and provided the drawings for a large number of the statues and fountains. Last but not least, each project was reviewed by the King himself, who was keen to see “every detail”. Not long after, the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart, having been made First Architect to the King and Superintendant of Buildings, built the Orangery and simplified the outlines of the Park, in particular by modifying or opening up some of the groves.
The Gardens of Versailles are some of the largest and most spectacular in the world and contain 372 statues, 55 water features, 600 fountains, and over 20 miles of water pipes.
Image # 1 (left) is the famous "Hall of Mirrors", where the World War One conclusion treaty was signed. Imagine, if you will, that Louis XVI actually lived in this incredible Palace! La Grand Galerie in French, this is a massive room that measures about 240 feet long and 34 feet wide and has a 40-foot ceiling. On one wall, 357 mirrors stretch from floor to ceiling. On the opposite wall, 17 large glass doors offer breathtaking views of Versailles' sprawling gardens.
This is the most famous room in the Palace, and it was built to replace a large terrace designed by the architect Louis Le Vau, which opened onto the garden. The terrace originally stood between the King’s Apartments to the north and the Queen’s to the south, but was awkward and above all exposed to bad weather, and it was not long before the decision was made to demolish it. Le Vau’s successor, Jules Hardouin-Mansart, produced a more suitable design that replaced the terrace with a large gallery. Work started in 1678 and ended in 1684.
This picture was taken from the front area of the Palace, and the residence of the Royal Family was on the right and the staff lived in the building on the left.
The cobble stoned area was where arriving coaches were allowed to enter and wait for their passengers.
The image on the above right gives you a much better view of the Versailles Royal Family Residence building. The building on the right side of this image is the Royal Chapel, the tallest building of the Palace where the royals prayed. Didn't seem to work too well for them, as they were both beheaded during the French Revolution.
This prestigious series of seven rooms were a parade apartment, used for hosting the sovereign’s official acts. For this reason, it was bedecked with lavish Italian-style decoration, much admired by the king at the time, composed of marble panelling and painted ceilings. During the day, the State Apartment was open to all who wished to see the king and the royal family passing through on their way to the chapel. During the reign of Louis XIV, evening gatherings were held here several times a week.
The Hercules Room was the last room to be built by Louis XIV at the end of his reign. From 1682 the space had been occupied by the palace chapel, which covered two floors and served until 1710, when it was replaced by the current Royal Chapel. A floor was laid to create a new room, but the decoration was not finished until the reign of Louis XV, who, in 1730, brought the huge painting by Veronese, The Meal in the House of Simon, to Paris from the Gobelins, where it had been stored since its arrival in France as a gift from the Republic of Venice to Louis XIV in 1664. Work on the Hercules Room was completed in 1736, when François Lemoyne finished the ceiling painting depicting The Apotheosis of Hercules. This vast, impressive, allegorical work, depicting no fewer than 142 persons, can be considered on a par with masterpieces by Italian fresco painters. It was created, however, using the marouflage technique, i.e. the scenes were painted on canvas and then stuck onto the ceiling. Despite being made First Painter to the King by Louis XV in return for his work, Lemoyne committed suicide a year later, in 1737, exhausted by this huge project which had taken four years to complete.
The Salon of Mars was originally meant to be used for the guards which is why the room was dedicated to Mars, the god of war. Due to its position it was natural that the Salon of Mars should also be included in the evening soirées. During these occasions it was used as a ballroom where there would be played music and danced. There used to be two canopies on either side of the fireplace that were intended for the musicians. This particular salon is rich with paintings and portraits.
Along with the Salon of Diana, the Salon of Venus is the main entrance to the Grand Apartments - this means that courtiers used these rooms to get to the King and Queen's Grand Apartments. Earlier the Ambassador's Staircase ended here but it was destroyed to make more room. When the so-called "evening soirees" (social gatherings for specially invited courtiers) were held, this salon was filled with small tables with either huge bouquets of flowers or rare, exotic fruit. Sometimes, there would also be served marzipan and crystallized fruit.
The principal feature in this room is Jean Warin's life-size statue of Louis XIV in the costume of a Roman emperor. On the ceiling in a gilded oval frame is another painting by Houasse, Venus subjugating the Gods and Powers (1672-1681). Optical illusion paintings and sculptures around the ceiling illustrate mythological themes.
Queen's Bed Chamber
The Queen's apartment at Versailles consists of several rooms: The Queen's Bedchamber; The Queen's Private Cabinets; The Room of the Queen's Gentlemen; The Queen's Antechamber; The Room of the Queen's Guard. The apartment overlooks the Parterre du Midi, and parallels the King's Apartment. When the King's Apartment was abandoned at the end of Louis XIV's reign, the Queens continued to occupy the Queen's Apartment.
The main room in the Queen's Apartment is The Queen's Bedchamber. It was designed for Louis XIV's Queen Marie Thérèse of Austria. Three queens occupied this room at different times: Maria Theresa of Austria, Marie Leszczyńska, and Marie Antoinette. After the death of Maria Theresa in 1683, it was occupied successively by two dauphines, Marie-Christine of Bavaria and Marie-Adélaïde of Savoy.
King's Bed Chamber
The King's bedchamber had originally been the State Drawing Room and had been used by Queen Marie-Theresa, but after her death in 1701 Louis XIV took it over to use as his own bedroom and died there on September 1, 1715. Both Louis XV and Louis XVI continued to use the bedroom for their official awakening and going to bed. On October 6, 1789, from the balcony of this room Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, joined by the Marquis de Lafayette, looked down on the hostile crowd in the courtyard, shortly before the King was forced to return to Paris.
The bed of the King is placed beneath a carved relief by Nicolas Coustou entitled France watching over the sleeping King. The decoration includes several paintings set into the paneling, including a self-portrait of Antony Van Dyck.
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