Tuesday, August 10, 2010

postcards from paris: château de versailles

So grand is the scale of the Château de Versailles that I could capture only small parts of it with my camera. You will have to rely on the many professional photos, or better yet, visit Versailles yourself to get the full impact. Beginning in the early 1600s as Louis XIII's hunting lodge, with its vast hunting grounds, Versailles became the transformed, spectacular, and increasingly centralized seat of the monarchy under Louis XIV (the "Sun King") who reigned from the age of 4 for over 72 years until his death in 1715. During three successive building campaigns, he brought much of Versailles to its current appearance by 1682, with the Chapel to follow. The palace's location outside the city of Paris allowed the King to house most of his court and many of his relations in one place (keeping track so he could live his long life, I guess). Only two more kings, Louis XV and young Louis XVI, lived there before the Revolution.

From the front gate (first photo above), the massive cobblestoned courtyard opens up to an array of grand court buildings. The focus of Louis XIV's fourth building campaign was the Chapel, a masterpiece whose heightened vaulting was allowed to break the otherwise regulated horizontal palace roof-line.

Below is a ground-level view of the cobblestones, giving you some idea of their irregular walking surface. Even arriving by horse and carriage must have been a jolting affair, because the baby strollers on site were definitely jostling the little sightseers. By the way, the palace and park (over 800 hectares, or about 3 square miles) is entirely fenced.

Back of the palace (below):

Bronze sculpture of La Seine

The park of Versailles spreads out behind the palace. Here (in photos above) you can more clearly see the horizontal emphasis of the long palace extensions, set off by the long perpendicular view down the axis of the Grand Canal (below). Among the many bronze sculptures surrounding the pools and fountains is this figure of La Seine, matched by La Marne on the other side. The park view encompasses the model layout for subsequent French gardens, with fountains and sculptures in marble, bronze and lead, the Grand Canal that stretches the eye "towards infinity" and, off in the woods, Le Grand Trianon and Le Petit Trianon.

Looking down the Grand Canal

Looking from the turtle fountain up the steps to the palace

Last Saturday evening, we stood with the crowd on the steps to watch the fountain displays and fireworks over the Grand Canal. Here, on a Friday afternoon, you can just see them testing the gas flames that march up the grass and are synchronized as part of the evening's display.

Dragon fountain, just before the Grand Canal

Much too much to show here, not to mention Le Grand and Le Petit Trianons, plus the glorious interiors of the palaces and chapel. But how about a few close-ups of workmanship (click on any photo to enlarge)?



Catherine said...

Another glorious adventure. V is amazing....one of the places where at the end of the day I thought my feet were going to drop off they were so tired. What a silly thing to remember
Photos wonderful.


Korie B. said...

I'm loving every blog entry... your adventures brighten every day.

I'm assuming you packed an external drive to bring all of these images home!

BTW, I love the music on your blog right now!