Jardins de Versailles or it’s gardens!

I need to talk again about the gardens or jardins de Versailles. The palace/museum is marvelous, a wonder of art building, a dream. However, the gardens are heavens, peace, beauty au naturel , health, good food, and hours and hours of tranquility amongst the paces of many personalities of our history.

The gardens were/are for me a refuge, I came here often very often much more than inside the castle as lived in the city. This was/is my kingdom, and for certains events in the near garden  and for most of the park is free.  If you want to have some peace away from the city not just Versailles but Paris, and other nearby, come here you will find it. Also, find many interesting folks from all over the world ,maybe even me!

When we go jogging, we go by the sculptures of the Cabinet des Animaux du midi ou fontaine du soir done in 1684. There are on the left side of the parterre d’eau after leaving the castle on the back.  Many figures of animals here,  like the Lion attacking a wild pig or a lion attacking a wolf. Louis XIV was an ardent hunter, with more than 100 days per year spent hunting.

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The gardens developped as did the palace/museum in the Domaine of Versailles , it includes all the buildings and land, that started with 815 hectares or 2003 acres. It is now only 37 hectares or 91 acres, thanks to the French revolution, yet its huge.  The king Louis XIII was of course, the first mover in the development of the gardens, the first traces were laid in the west side of the castle in 1630. In 1662 after the disgrace of Nicolas Fouquet and the appropiation of the Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte, king Louis XIV put his efforts in beautifying the castle at Versailles with the same team of  Louis Le Vau, Charles Le Brun , and André Le Nôtre.

You move on to the Hercule, Minerve ,and Flore done in 1656. They are in the bosquet de la girandole and they were gifts from Nicolas Fouquet to Louis XIV, they were done as Hercule,Minerve,Flore,Moissonneur,Bacchus, Pomone,Vertumne, and Baccante done in Rome in 1655. They were purchase from the heirs of Nicolas Fouquet. The marble was taken as well from Nicolas Fouquet at the cour des Marbles,and last renovated in 1978-1982. You come to admire the Bassin du Dragon, sculptured in 1667, with serpents being attacked by archers, throw its blood but better water b its mouth. They were put here in 1668 welcoming the triumphant Louis XIV from the devolution war and the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.

We continue with the Bosquet des Rocailles ou Salle de Bal, this is where the spectacles were held outdoors,in the summer evenings, where the ballet comedy and opera ballet created by Lully and Moliére were started in 1683. Louis XIV was also interested by the dance and with his support the royal academy of the dance was created in 1661. Not a garden but right in the middle of it, is the Petite Venise ,near the Grand Canal, done in 1673. This is where the gondolas and boats given by Venice were housed as well as the yachts of England for the boat parade in the Grand Canal., These included the ships Galiate(1669), Grand Vaisseay(1685),Dunkerquoise (1685), Réale or Grande Galére (1686) were the stars. The Grand Canal 1,8 kms long served perfectly for this showcase. The front of a boat favorite of Marie Antoniette it is now visible at the musée national de la marine at the pl de la concorde ,Paris.

It is by 1661 that the Orangerie and Grotte de Thétys are done, and king Louis XIV made sumptous parties. Between 1665 and 1668 the enrichement of the gardens continue with the improvement the Grotte de Thétys ,and the addition of the Parterre de Latone and bassin d’Apollon. The grotte or cave of Thétys had another marvelous use  with the hydraulic system that provided water to the gardens, the roof of the cave held a reserve that kept the water pump from the etang or lake of Clagny fed by gravity the fountains of the gardens.

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We come to the Grand Canal, 1500 meters long and 62 meters wide built between 1668-1671 gives you a visual into farther away behind the palace  to the axe east west until the petit parc. In 1674, king Louis  XIV  ordered the construction of the  “Petite Venise“; located by the septentrinal arm of the Grand Canal where it houses the boats and yachts received from the Low Countries ,and housing the gondolas received as gift from the Doge de Venice. The Grand Canal receives the water that filter from the fountains and into the garden;this water was pump by a network of pump made work by windmills and horsemills and later send to the reserves on the top of the grotte de Thétys to again feed the fountains ,so the hydraulic system works in a close circuit.

he gardens of Versailles are irrigated with water, where? underground, when in the fall the fountains are empty for cleaning you can see the deep wells of these magnificents fountains and water pumps. The reservoir in the north wing coming from the hill or butte de Montbauron provides underground water for 30 kms of canals!!! reachable by 6 galleries or underground tunnels communicating by a set of joints to the 50 fountains and 670 water spouts. The underbelly of Versailles is a huge water castle.  By the parterre of water eight statues surge representing the rivers of France such as the Loire, Rhone,Loiret,Saone,Seine,Marne, Garonne and Dordogne.

versailles grand canal to porte st antoine

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Below the fountain of Latone you will see the terrace of the castle also known as the Parterre d’Eau . It forms an axe east west between the castle and the gardens and has a straight view from the Grands Appartements!. In 1674 king Louis XIV ordered several statues as a decorating element for the fountains on the parterre d’Eau, this is known as the Grande Commande or big order, and consisted of  24 statues of classical design created by Charles Le Brun and done by the best sculptures of the times.

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Some of the forest gardens done under king Louis XIV were numerous I just mentioned them here with dates Bosquet du Marais(1670); Bosquet du Théatre d’Eau(1671); Île du Roi & Miroir d’Eau, Salle des Festins or salle du Conseil;Bosquet des Trois-Fontaines.  In 1672, Labyrinthe and Bosquet de l’Arc de Triomphe; in 1675  Bosquet de Renommée (also call bosquet des Dômes), Bosquet de l’Encélade, in 1678  Bosquet des Sources.

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Other wonders such as the bassin des sapins where the fountain of Neptune is located done in 1678.  The gardens were constantly improve and enlarge and three more forest or bosquets came to light, Galerie des Antiques in 1680 La Salle de Bal, with a cascade only one in Versailles that gave rise to many celebrations here by the king,done in 1681-1683. La Colonnade by Jules Hardouin Mansart done on the old placement of the Bosquet des Sources  of André Le Nôtre. This is a circular shape with 32 arches and 28 fountains echoing the architectural expression of Hardouin-Mansart at Versailles,done in 1684-85.  king Louis XV spent more on the palace and trianons than on the gardens so his efforts bear very little here. king Louis XVI try to change the gardens a la anglaise or english but did not work to a la française came back. However, little as his biggest contribution was that of  the  Grotte des Bains d’Apollon.

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The French revolution came in and the gardens suffered too. Trees and grass was removed, and people will come to do their laundry in the fountains…  Napoleon I came but ignored the gardens as well. And it took another Louis to do something about it. In 1817 king Louis XVIII (brother of Louis XVI as the VXII was killed by the revolutionaries) ordered two forests built, these are the bosquet de l’Île du Roi ,and the  Miroir d’Eau , both were transformed into English garden to form the  Jardin du Roi.

Just at the entry fo the pyramide and the allée des marmousets you see the Bain des Nymphes de Diane (done from 1668-1670).  This is to the right as you come into the gardens. You, also, enjoy the Ile de Délos, This is the mythical story of Latone lover of Junon who gives birth to Apollon and Diane at the isle of Delos. The figures are on marble on a pedestal of 3 levels with the figure of Latone facing the Grand Canal. Great

We go now to the birth of seasons at Enlevement de Proserpine par Pluton or the kidnapping of proserpine by pluton.Created by Le Brun in 1674. Proserpine was the daughter of Jupiter and kidnapped by Pluton god of hell that marries her. It is in the center of the bosquet de la Colonnade from 1699 Many beautiful sculptures around this area too. One of the them is the Songe de Poliphile, white and pink marble done between 1687-1688 at the place of the old bosquet de Sources done by Le Notre, after losing favorite status by Louis XIV the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart that change the name to bosquet de la colonnade ,and creates amongst other beauties the Grande and Petite Ecuries,new Orangerie,Grand Trianon,and the designed of the allées de Nord,and Midi.The bosquet de la colonnade is gorgeous.

See the Fountain du bosquet de l’Encelade (1675-1677) full of rocks imitating the lava of a volcano. Also from Greek mytholody. The bosquet was used as a political tool in the war of Holland during the great european alliance of 1673.  It continues showing the sculpture of the France Triomphante (1683) at the bosquet de l’arc de triomphe.  It has at its feet the conquered countries after the peace of Nimegue in 1678 shown as captives such as Spain,Austria,. The sculpture is in gold but not massive just a bath.  Continue to the Bosquet des trois Fontaines, done in 1679 and renovated in 2005,it has a huge shell of copper of 4 meters in diameter.

Another of my favorites is the Bassin de l’ile des Enfants at the bosquet du Rond Vert. The children plays with the flowers on a rock dating from 1710,done from the anguish of Louis XIV of seeing many of his royal children not reaching teen years…they died. In 1714 it is only one child left to inherit the reign, one that Louis XIV held for over 60 years! Going over to the Bassin de Neptune we see the Neptune et Amphitrite (1736-1740), placing over a huge marine shell on a metal platform. It has 99 jets of water!!!  It is the only sculpture ordered by Louis XV in the gardens.  We move on to the Bosquet des Bains d’Apollon to see the sundown chez Tethys;;;lead design done in 1704 around the old grotte or cave of Tethys done in 1666. A gorgeous romantic spot.

The palace and it gardens were finally protected by king Louis Philippe in 1837 by transforming it into a museum! All the palace and gardens is a museum. Many of the gardens bosquets have a short life and no longer exist than those mentioned above. In all a wonderful huge place to come and I say more than a day at least 3 to see it all!

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The official Chateau de Versailles webpage has information on the gardens : Chateau de Versailles on the gardens in English

Tourist office of Versailles on palace’ gardens in English

There you go enjoy a masterpiece of humanity. WE love it, hope you do too, its a must even for it alone! indeed our favorite playground with the boys! The gardens of the palace/museum of Versailles!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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