Archive for March 21st, 2012

March 21, 2012

Stories of Versailles, other places to see

This is my town for almost 9 years, my house is on sale to move to Brittany with the family but Versailles will be always home….the city has been nice to us, and it is beautiful ,the history of France is here. Versailles the royal capital of France. However, let me tell you about other places around Versailles.

I will start with one of my family’s favorite places, the Ferme de Gally. Yes a farm, but not an ordinary farm. It was acquired in 1684 by Louis XIV to supply the court of milk products. It is at the end of the Grand Canal, yes the one you think ends by the boat lakes, but its actually goes way back,keep walking …. all along the allée de la Ceinture. The farm is still today in activity,handle by the same family since 1741!!! It is one of the oldest building in the area ,originally founded in the 11C by the priests of the abbey of Sainte-Geneviéve-du-mont at Paris to plow and put into use the lands around the plains of Versailles.  It was call after the val de galie, a stream,that since then was change to Gally. We can continue today follow the stream, from the allée du Plat Fond just to the small village of Rennemoulin off the D307 and very picturesque horse country today.  At the beginning by 1038 ,this stream gave the name to Versailles because the lord of these lands was named Hugo de Versaillis.

We can continue our car ride on the D307 back there,and visit Noisy-le-Roi, where there is the Porte Criton. The lands around here belong to a Florentine family, the Gondi,  ,and he buys the lands to built the castle of Noisy, today the only remains is this archway door.  This castle in 1607 welcome the children of Henri IV while deseases rage at St Germain en Laye. Louis XIII hunted these lands with the Gondi’s. In 1622 Paris was given the rank of archebishop, and it first bishop the son of Gondi, Jean-François de Gondi. It was later purchase in 1631 by Louis XIII and you know the real Versailles was born from here.  The bishop now Cardinal Retz was found in conspiracy with the rebellion of the Fronde, and thrown in jail in 1652, later the castle passed to bishop Jacques Benigne Bossuet (the eagle of Meaux,and religious advisor to Louis XIV). The castle was incorporated into the Domaine de Versailles in 1675. The Chateau de Noisy was finally left unused and destroyed in 1732.

For those history buffs, the Domaine de Versailles is the old name, where the castle was, and it included 807 hectares of land vs the 37 of Chateau de Versailles of today!

We move a bit south to the town of Le Loges-en-Josas, at rue du petit-jouy, you see the Pavillon Forestier de la Porte de Jouy,  It served as the headquarters of the guards of the king hunting trips. One of the 22 archdoors given way to the Domaine of hunting grounds, in 1684, it included 43 kms long, longer than todays’s periphérique de Paris (beltway road around Paris today). By 1705 ,Louis XIV creates many lordships, one for hunting was called the Petit parc of 1700 hectares, included the piéce des Suisses,Grand Canal,Ménagerie et Trianon ,and the other was the Grand parc, included the hunting grounds of 6000 hectares, in addition 2000 hectares of the Domaine de Marly.The perspective of this grand parc reach way beyond the Grand Canal for about 5 kms,and eight villages. Including the today’s Bailly,Bois-d’Arcy,Buc,Guyancourt, Fontenay-le-Fleury,Noisy,Rennemoulin, and Saint Cyr.

We move in city now to Avenue de la Division Leclerc, to see the wonderful door front of the Portail d’entrée du pavillon de la lanterne, It is the old royal  horse stables established by Le Vau between 1622-1664. Louis XVI  made it the official royal stables in 1787; around the central courtyard, you find a lanterne with seven courtyards smaller of deer, wild pigs, cerfs,phaisants, and other birds.  Inside you ,also, find the old house or pavillon de la duchesse de Bourgogne.

Inside the Petite Ecuries, in front of the castle to your right looking into Versailles, you have the huge gallery or Vestibule des sculptures des Fontaines du Labyrinthe,  keeping the sculptures from the 17C, 39 fountains, with 333 animals designs from the bosquet du laberinthe dating 1660-1677/ You have the history of the stories of Charles Perrault and Jean de La Fontaine, dedicated to the Grand Dauphin, Mme de Montespan, and the Duke of Burgundy (grandson of Louis XIV). Charles Perrault brings them to Versailles, as de La Fontaine was not favored due to his support for Nicolas Fouquet.

We go for water now to the town of Buc, and the great Aqueduct de Buc; team of engineers of Louis XIV, did from 1663-1688 a huge network of more than 30 kms around the castle.  The aqueduct has nine arches, and was built between 1684-1686.  It is 580 meters long and 24 meters high processing 8 millions cubic meters of water with 170 kms of irrigations hoses with 40 kms of underground hoses.  After it was installed in 1981 a waterpump in the Grand Canal, the fountains of the castle could again play the water show we see today!

We go military now to the town of Saint Cyr-l’école, here we see the chapelle Notre Dame at the special military school of Saint Cyr. 2 avenue Jean Jaurés, Saint Cyr l’école; it was Madame de Maintenon, that in 1684 creates the Maison royale de Saint Louis , an educational center for young girls of the bankrupt nobility. Born herself of a bankrupt family at a prison in Niort, knowing the severe education of the convents and monasteries and agreed upon by Louis XIV, the school was born. Her remains were placed in 1719 in the nave of the Chapelle Notre Dame, but in 1794 the revolutionaries profane her tomb.   In 1836 when construction to reinforced the altar of the chapel it was found a black marble coffin,that in turn was destroyed in 1890 by those who accused her of the revocation of the Edit of Nantes .IN 1944 Saint Cyr was occupied by the Nazis,and destroyed during WWII, it was again discovered an old coffin without knowing how it ended up there. In the last honors, the ashes of Mme de Maintenon was deposited in the royal chapel of the Chateau de Versailles,before coming back to her original burial at the Chapelle de Notre Dame in 1969 where she rest in a marble block in the central alley. She is the only member of the royal family to be buried in land or dirt of Versailles.

We go back to Versailles at the Grande Ecuries (left from chateau looking out to city of Versailles), whre you find the musée de Carrosses, to see the Traineau au Léopard, (1730) the snow sledge, one of ten still conserve, which the royal families used, after the others were sold after the revolution. None remaining from the time of Marie Antoinette.  From the time of Louis XV these were very much love.  They will use them on the ice at the Grand Canal!In those years, cold was really cold. The Versailles tourist office tells more now handle by the Castle property and seldom visited, because most is in preservation, check later on for 2012 dates.

In the city of Versailles there is a wonderful museum most do not see, dont know why…Musée Lambinet, tells the history of the city and all in it. There you can see wonderful things such as the Carreaux de Faîence provenant du Trianon de Porcelaine,  the faience porcelain tiles coming from the old Trianon. By order of Louis XIV, Le Vau builts in 1670 a house or pavillon all covered in porcelain and parterre gardens done by Le Bouteux( son of the nephew of Le Notre). Two millions pots were ready at the disposal , with plants including onions from Holland/ The faience were done by Delft. The house could not withstand the cold weather very well, and it turn in ruins. Louis XIV change its tastes and in 1684 ordered it destroyed. In turn he orders the marble house or Trianon that we know today as the Grand Trianon!

Last tour but not least is where I entered every weekend into the Domaine de Versailles of today, either walking or by car, the Porte Saint Antoine,,ordered built in 1786 to replaced the old archdoor that gave way from the petit parc to the town of Le Chesnay (where my boys went to school). The decoration of the archway or porte shows the lion of Némée that is killed by Hercules, as well seen in other parts of the castle such as the cour royale,and the support of balcons leading to the gardens.  The archway marked symbolic the entry into an universe where nature has been dominated,and magnify by the hands of the kings!!! Lord I am a poet ::) Yes my archway magnificent. You can get here by taking bus no 19 at ave saint cloud and ave de l’Europe and stop at Arboretum, then walk about 200 meters to the porte Saint Antoine.

Enjoy Versailles, it is the kingdom of France.

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