Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Palace of the Sun King

As you can tell from this picture (taken in the Hall of Mirrors) it was rather damp! I am definitely sporting the drowned rat look, but the smile on my face reflects my lack of concern over being soaked through. Today, I will take you on a little mini tour of the Palace of Versailles. This palace was built by Louis the IV for several reasons, one was to get out of the city, and the other was to create and consolidate a center of power. Louis was one of the most powerful and successful kings ever, ruling over 18 million people. In the seventeenth century, french culture was at it's zenith and Versailles was the cultural center of Europe. Every other king wanted a palace like Versailles!

My first impression of the grand palace of Versailles was a little disappointing. We started out in some random rooms full of portraits of Louis IV - I noted that the door frames were faux marble, and was feeling kind of ripped off, but as we moved on, I definitely was treated to all the fabulous splendor of the great sun-king.
Before we left, I had downloaded an audio guide to my phone to use at Versailles. I was hoping my daughter would be able to also download it on her music player, but because of computer problems she wasn't able to. So we each just plugged one ear phone in and walked close together - actually a good thing because the place was definitely packed!

The extravagant painted ceilings were breathtaking, and many of them had a lot of symbolism, and it was so helpful to have the video guide to explain what we were seeing. I remember walking up the stairs, and you could feel that they were worn down by all the people who have gone up and down them over the years, it was really a very sobering feeling, like the weight of the history of this building just settled over me.

As you can see there was a mob of people filling all the rooms of the palace! We just shuffled along, listening to our guide, looking up at the painted ceilings and enjoying hearing the murmur of so many voices - a very international crowd indeed! This area had tons of statues and paintings, all beautifully done. See the beautiful marble designs on the wall? No faux marble in here! I hear the floors are lovely, too, but I don't think I ever really looked down - and it was quite crowded so I probably wouldn't have seen much anyway (don't worry - I found some other wonderful floors later in our trip!)

One of the interesting things about the ceilings was that they were not meant to be viewed from any certain vantage point, but they were really painted as if you were looking up into an actual scene above you! No matter where you stood part of the scene would be right side up and part of it would be upside down. I'm glad I didn't have a stiff neck because it would have made it tough to enjoy that part of it. The ceilings all had Roman gods and goddesses mixed in with real people from the era. One of the interesting things about Louis IV was that he called himself the Sun King - because he brought warmth and light to everyone! Believe me, this man had no self esteem issues, he was a supremely confident ruler, and his kingdom was one that the world of that time envied. Unfortunately, only a few generations later it all crumbled and ended in revolution.

This is the Hall of Mirrors. It is a beautiful room, windows down all one side, and mirrors all along the other literally reflecting the windows. Dozens of gorgeous crystal chandeliers, this is a stunning ball room. You could just picture the elegant ladies and gentlemen in here, and all the dozens of flirtations, conspiracies and conversations taking place! Really amazing - there are 357 mirrors in this one room, built in a time when only the well-to-do even had one! I don't think many of us would be able to function without at least several mirrors in our homes.
Next week we'll have a tour of the gardens and see the fountains - which was the whole reason we chose this day to go. Definitely worth seeing, even on a rainy day!
Till next week,
Pamela

1 comment:

sewmeow said...

Thanks, Pamela, for these wonderful pictures and tour. I can't imagine the mirrors.