Archive for March 26th, 2012

March 26, 2012

Versailles, a lot more than a castle

As I was saying, this is the town I live for almost 9 years, and officially still there although now in Brittany in transition. The 99,99%  of folks coming over do so to see the palace or Chateau de Versailles, actually the Domaine de Versailles as it includes other buildings than the castle. However, there is a lot more to see in the City of Versailles.

This is the place where any changes to the French constitution must take place, any amendments needs to be carry out here.The entire French government is move here including the President, last was in 2009. It was here that the constitution was done and by the constitution all changes mush happenned here. So for this while the city becomes the de facto Capital of France. Now enough of political science and lets get back into the sights.

The first I have written about it is the Collegiale Notre Dame church, the first church of Versailles , done from 1684-1686 ,  keeping the heights on building demanded by Louis XIV, where all the baptismal and birth records of the children of the royal families are kept. This is at 35  rue de la Paroisse, just from the statue of king Louis XIV in front of castle to your left you will see it.  You go to the other neighborhood of Versailles at Saint Louis, you see the Cathedral de Saint Louis, ,named after the king and saint Saint Louis, and cathedral since 1790, another gem that needs to be visit at 4 pl Saint Louis , , another nice neighborhood very much neglected houses the third church of Versailles ,that of église Saint Symphorien, at 2 pl Saint Symphorien in the Montreuil district.

Next to the Cathedrale Saint Louis there is a building adjoint , it is the Chapelle des Catéchisme ou de la providence, at place Saint Louis.  Done by donation from Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry the chapel was done in 1764.  the architecture is similar to the church of Saint Symphorien.

We move on to a more royal site at the Miason Modéle, building of the Pavillon des Sources at 11 rue Carnot, water came to the city from the forest of Marly and Chesnay since 1682, this house dating from 1683 ,is the first to follow Louis XIV buildings heights in the city, and the reservoir in it worked for two centuries! In 1866 the building becomes a housing site as any other to be live.  There is a plaque in the front door,  that tells you of this message.

Moving over to the other side by ave de Sceaux and rue satory there is a edge street call rue de la chancellerie and here at no 24 there is the Hôtel de la chancellerie where now there is the music conservatory. Done between 1699-1714,  this is the area where at the time most of the nobles and courtisans of the court lived.

We go back to rue Carnot and at no 5 you can see a building, this is the Ecuries de la Reine or the Queen’s stables. done in 1682, here were the first stables of the king later of the queen in 1682 to Marie Thérese of Austria (the  Spanish queen of Louis XIV).  The king and queen loves horses, and one time there were 2300 in the city until the revolution.  Not horses but fruits and vegetables were found at the Potager du roi, by 10 rue du Marechal Joffre. next to the Cathedrale de Saint Louis.  done between 1678-1683 and a statue of its keeper  Jean Baptiste de La Quintinie in 1876. The best products were served at the court, and still you can see the where the rest was given to the needy at 2 rue Hardy where there is still the trap on the door that the food was given out!

Just around the castle and ready to open in 2105 the Grand Commun ,where the common people that works in the castle lives, ,nearby at the angle of rue des récollects and rue saint julien, you see the Portail de l’église des récollects, which first stone was put in by Louis XIV in 1684, to replace the church destroyed to built the Grand Comun ,call church of Saint Julien. This was an old order of the welcome order or recueillis that were established in Versailles from 1670.

Right on the right side of the castle when looking at it is the rue Robert de Cotte; I drive by it every day or every time in the city, you see here the Chateau d’eau or the water services of the city.  They were once serve the splinkers of the fountain of the castle , still inside there is a huge barrel or cube of 1200 cubic meters carry high by stone column 13 meters high, built in 1684, to stock the water from the hill or butte de Montbauron, the water was suck out in about 41 minutes!!! and filled up again. you can still see the inscription at 1 rue Robert de Cotte, Service des eaux, at the entrance to the street rue Peintre Lebrun. you can still see the arch door , looking like a house building today. Here lived the fountain keeper, the engineer in charge of the fountains was François Francine and he lived at 14 rue Hoche not far from the house of André le Notre who lived in no 16, today both houses are gone.

You go to the other side now, at 4-6 rue de l’independance americaine to see the old hôtel de la Surintendance des Bâtiments du roi, the house or building of the builders of Versailles, done in 1683, after the revolution the last in charge of buildings in Versailles left in exile to Germany ,but the wife remains inside until her passing in 1808! Most past by but dont go in,and its a pity, the Hôtel de Ville or city govt building at 4 avenue de Paris, has a wonderful Salle des Mariages de l’hôtel de ville, a marriage center room.  The old hôtel de Conti rebuilit in 1899 in roccoco style , the room dates from 1723 done for the dukes of Bourbon, the prime minister of Louis XV. Gorgeous room. Going a bit further at no 6 Avenue de Paris, you see the old Hôtel des Gens d’armes de la garde du roi, or the kings guards headquarters. dates from 1723, for the exclusive use of the king done to house 200 guardsmen and 10 officers. A total of 2000 men were kept here forming 14 companies of soldiers, including the guards inside the Louvre of Paris.  55 000 special corps in total all over, covering as much as 50% of the budget.  You can see now the French flag as it house the police HQ today.

See the fountain at place saint Louis by the cathedrale, done in 1766  fed by waters from the machine de marly and hill or butte de picardie worked until 1964!! later was found the water not of good quality and the water came from Croissy sur Seine that feeds the city with water and now of better quality since 1896 until today. You now see a plaque that tells you of this story there. Nearby at the Carre à la Terre, you see the Porte d’Angle, history tell us that from 1750 the relationship between Madame de Pompadour and Louis XV were common. they organise meeting at parc aux cerfs, not sure still but historians thinks it was around 82 rue d’Anjou or 4 Rue Saint Médéric behind a door at an angle in wood, such as the one describe here, porte d’angle.

We move up to nearer the castle at 7 rue des reservoirs ( nice street side entrance to castle), here you see the old Hôtel de Madame de Pompadour, on the side of the opera royal inside the castle you will see this building; built in 1752; the later owner in 1875 turn it into a hotel the Grand Hotel des Reservoirs, a very prestigious address in the early 20th century. Diplomats of the III republic to Emile Zola stayed here. Beautiful building showing the arms of the Madame.  If you pay attention and play my game we are now going back to the other side by 12 rue de l’independance Americaine, and see the old Hôtel du Grand Contrôle, purchase in 1680 , and the owners going bankrupt in 1720 the hotel was sold n 1724 to louis XV to established the general controls or budge office.  When the estate generaux was assembled in 1789 by louis XVI, more than 40 controlers have passed!

Staying this time on the same street at No 3 rue de l’independance Americaine, you see the door of the old Hôtel de la Guerre or war ministry. done in 1758, to house the secretary of state, it has five floors but not wood all is done with brick to avoid the fires of past ravages, the building was tested in person by Louis XV in 1762. stay on at No 5 ,you see the Galerie de l’hôtel de la marine et des affaires étrangeres. The navy and foreign affaires building.  See a round marble table where peace treaties were signed such as the Seven year wars, and the treaty of Paris of 1768, 1768 treaty to annex corsica, and the one on September 3 1783 where England recognised the new nation the United States of America? the table is now gone, but old books remains collected from all the nobles collections after their confiscation by the revolution in 1793.

Coming more to city center see 4 rue Saint Julien the old post office building, Hôtel des Postes, done in 1752.  poste comes from the word where the stables were kept to relay one horse to another and assuring the transport of passengers. There were 1320 postes and in 1795 took five days to Bordeaux and 125 pounds of money equivalent to a year salary by an artisan of the times.  For 15 days delay the price was 50 pounds.  in main city at 21 avenue de paris you see today the chamber of commerce building, orginal done in 1751 call Hôtel de Georges-Réné Binet . IN 1771 the countess of Barry was the last owner, used to house her domestic service! When Louis XV died in 1774 she needed to leave Versailles, the brother of the king the Count of Provence buys the building, the countess was guillotine in 1793.

Going over the other side at 73 avenue de Saint Cloud, you see the door portical of the Chapelle des Augustine or couvent de la reine, her in 1766 the queen Maire Lesczynska creates a school for ladies, and gives over to the augustinian order, she died before done in 1768 but her daughters continue the work, and the school was opened in 1772.Today is the famous lycée Hoche or high school.  You can see the chapelle de l’hôpital royal de Versailles or Hôpital Richaud at 78 blvd de la reine. Done in 1779, it was Louis XIII that made it into a hospital at rue de la paroisse,then LOuis XIV transfer it to the current place,and ordered in 1670 an even bigger hospital under the authority of the religious order of Saint Vincent de Paul. Now a huge private project is undergoing to turn it into a luxurious condo apartment place, leaving the chapel instact.

Right closer to the castle at 13 rue des reservoirs, you see the wonderful theater Théatre de Montansier and its beautiful salle or salon.  Opened in 1777 in the presence of Louis XVI and Marie Antoniette. Her real name Marguerite Brunet dite La Montansier, who went on to do other theaters such as that of Théatre des Variétés in Paris, she managed still in 1819 at the age of 89! Moving up on the Montreuil district see the wonderful Maison des Musiciens Italiens at 15 rue Champ-Lagarde, where the Italian musicians ordered to play to louis XIv stayed. They came for the first time in 1710, and the king made renovate a house done between 1686-1692 renovation done in 1752. The garden done by Louis Guillaume Le Monnier in 1762, became friend of the court and Louis XVI, creates the bosquet de la reine in 1775 at the castle gardens, and name first doctor of the king in 1789; he came back after the revolution to this place where he died in 1799 at age of 92!

Across from here entering from the above property or at 73bis avenue de Paris, you see the  Maison de Madame Elizabeth,  in 1776 Louis XVI buys the house for his sister Madame Elizabeth at the age of 19. She makes parties and teach girls of lesser means, creates a charity for the sick and became known as the Bonne dame de Montreuil, or the good lady of the neighborhood of Montreuil. She convince Louis XVI to buy the village into Versailles in 1787.  She, also, fares bad in the revolution ,guillotine in 1794 just for speaking out in defense of her brother.

You go a favorite area of mine, the Parc Balbi, a deal by the Count of Provence (king ‘s brother) and his mistress Countess of Balbi in 1785. a beautiful picturesque English park with a chinese twist, very nice, and great for families at 12 rue du Maréchal Joffre, on the side of the Potager du roi.

Way up on avenue de paris at no 111 you see the house or Pavillon de Musique de Madame, crossing avenue Chauchard. Done by the countess of Provence sister in law of Louis XVI, Marie Josephine de Savoie,came to established in 1780. She addes an English park , artificial mountain, and chinese pagodas, dairy farms etc, and lake in 1784. Last owner was Alfred Chauchard, the owner of the old stores Grands magasins du Louvre, that finally bequested to the city in 1902. The only condition is that his statue is clean and maintain in perpeauty.

Going by the Chantiers train station you see at 22 avenue de Paris, corner of rue Eduard Lefébvre, the traces of the foundation of the room where the estates generals met to write the French constitution and the nation.  It is at the Hôtel des Menus-Plaisirs,now a music center. The room is still kept where 1200 deputies met in 1789. Louis XVI does have two previous convocations in 1787 and 1788. History tell us that the abolition of privileges, and feodualism ended on the night of August 4  1789. the adoption of the declaration of the rights of men and citizens on August 26 1789. Here monarchy has its last great representation of the absolute power.

You ,also, can ask to see at the tourist office the dining room or Salle à manger de l’hôtel de la préfecture et du département, 11-13 avenue de Paris. built in 1863-1867, on the old dog pan of Louis XIV. In march 18 1871 Adolphe Thiers makes the escape from Paris and established here the seat of government. In 1873 McMahon is name president of France here. In 1875 Jules Grévy is the last name here after it was moved back to Paris in 1879. Just a nice walk up from the castle.

Hope you have enjoy the walk of the beautiful city, a lot more than a castle.

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