King Louis XIII originally visited Versailles while on a hunting trip with land owner Albert de Gondi. King Louis XIII was so impressed with the location, he acquired the land from the de Gondi family and in 1623 he had a hunting lodge built at the location. He and his family frequented the location during the remainder of his reign.
The majority of construction at Versailles was performed during King Louis XIV’s reign. The first of his four construction campaigns commenced in 1664. It lasted approximately 4 years and enlarged the chateau and gardens large enough to host 600 guests. The second construction campaign lasted 3 years, from 1669 to 1671. During this campaign, the original hunting lodge was barely noticeable. In addition, the Grand Apartments were constructed. The third campaign lasted from 1678-1684, which included the construction of the Great Hall of Mirrors, the North and South wings. The Gardens were also enhanced under the direction of Le Notre’s direction. The fourth and final campaign lasted between 1699 and 1710. The only major construction during the fourth campaign was the addition of the Royal Chapel. After spending most of his childhood at Versailles and having a great distaste for politics in Paris, King Louis XIV moved from Paris to Versailles. Politics in France would not return back to Paris until after the French Revolution in 1799.
After the fourth construction campaign ended, Versailles was left untouched for 21 years. King Louis XV’s construction campaign’s weren’t to the same scale as his predecessor, but included major accomplishments such as the Salon d’Hercule, Petit apartments and the Mesdames’ apartments. In addition, his construction group added the Opera and Petit Trianon. One of his last projects was remodeling the courtyard facades in the Gardens.
King Louis XVI continued where his grandfather had left off. He had the Gardens replanted to an English style garden. He also ordered Marie Antoinette’s estate constructed. She spent most of her time relaxing there as she missed her home and was not well liked by the people of France. In 1789, King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette moved back to the Tuileries Palace in Paris. During the height of the French Revolution in 1791, King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were arrested and all royal possessions were confiscated. Versailles and the furnishings inside were spared as the palace was sealed. In the late 1700’s, Versailles became a museum and the apartments were eventually used as art galleries.
When Napoleon came to rise in the early 1800’s, he changed Versailles from a museum back to a palace and the majority of the art work was moved to other locations around France. Napoleon chose to live in the Grand Trianon instead of the chateau, while the chateau was used to house guests. The empress, Marie-Louise stayed with Napoleon and was allowed to decorate the apartments.
The Revolution of 1830 replaced Napoleon’s monarchy with the July monarchy and in 1830, Versailles was again used as a palace. Louis-Philippe chose to follow Napoleon’s lead and stay in the Grand Trianon instead of the Chateau. In 1837, Versailles was again turned into a museum. In 1892, Pierre de Nolhac was appointed the museum curator and he oversaw the restoration of Versailles.
Today, Versailles continues to be used as a museum and receives over 6,000,000 visitors a year. The ruling party in France enthusiastically endorses the palace of Versailles as favorite location for tourists. The Gardens of Versailles cover over 800 hectacres of land. Versailles has 2,153 windows and over 2,300 rooms. It has 67 staircases and covers more than 51,200 square meters of floor space.
There are almost 30,000 different pieces of artwork residing at the Versailles Museum. The museum has over 6,100 paintings, over 1,500 drawings, 15,304 engravings, 2,102 sculptures and over 5,210 pieces of furniture.
quick facts & figures
Construction Start: 1623
Garden Size: 800 hectacres
Size: 51,200 Square Meters
Annual Tourists: 6,000,000