Versailles, exteriors!

Well as said, cannot be too far from my dear old home Versailles. There is so much to write on the city and its monuments (more than the castle) that a blog on it would be more appropiate. However, using my library and been friends of the palace for many years let me tell you a bit more on the exteriors! Yes we do so much on the interior that we forget the wonderful exterior of the Palace:museum of Versailles!

I am back on my nostalgic mood so of course, Versailles is sublime, can’t go a day without thinking of it, visited many many times over the years and again; however, living there for 10 years was tops. A royal chic town with friendly folks and history all around you, France, Europe, the World. Unique

I have done posts on Versailles of different kinds over the years but now will do one on simply the exteriors of the palace/museum of Versailles. The architecture is phenomenal and the look from any angle in the city is awesome.


I will be a bit more technical on this post, of course, taken from the pros publication of the Friends of the Palace of Versailles experience.

The succession of the Place d’Armes and the three courtyards of the Palace : Avant-cour (forecourt), Cour Royale( Royal Court) and cour de Marbre (Marble court) are the result of several construction campaigns. As early as 1662, king Louis XIV ordered, among the first transformations of his father’s (Louis XIII) little castle, the widening of the lower courtyard and the development of its surroundings. Its first architect Louis Le Vau rebuilds the two wings of the Commons on both sides of this low courtyard which today corresponds to the Royal Court. He also rebuilt the guard pavilions that frame the gate. But ten years later, this entry is completely modified: the wings of the Commons now des Offices are ennobled at their ends by the construction of colonnades or porticos on which is aligned a new grid creating the Royal Court.


This forecourt presents its current appearance. It is now preceded by the Place d’Armes, on which the two French Guards and Swiss Guards have opened under the new ramps of the Avant-Cour. A new gate now called the grille d’honneur ( honor gate), flanked by two sentry boxes for the guards, comes to close it..The Secretaries of State pavilions are connected by main buildings, all of which constitute the ailes des Ministres or Ministers’ wings. Finally, two gatehouses, like those in the honor gate, are created for the Gardes de la porte (Door Guards on duty) at the gate of the Royal Court.


In 1772-1774, the construction of the pavillon Gabriel which removed one of the two porticoes from the old ailes des Offices wings; in 1794, the destruction of the gate of the Royal Court and its sentry boxes; finally, in 1814-1820, the removal of the second portico and the construction of the pavillon Dufour. From the outset, France’s victories over the enemy powers is illustrated by the two groups in the first grid; it brings peace and abundance, themes figured by the groups that framed the second entrance. Some of these with year are 1662. Decoration of the pillars of the gate and the guard pavilions closing the new lower courtyard. 1671. First decoration of the Secretaries of State pavilions. 1672-1673. Sculpture of the twelve figures of the porticoes of the ailes Des Offices wings. 1680-1682. Sculpture of the entrance to the guardhouses under the ramps. Realization and installation of the four groups above the gatehouses of the Avant-cour and the Royal Court; decor of the fountains on the ramps; decoration of the dormer windows of the Ailes des Ministres and enrichment of the decoration of the Secretaries of State pavilions. Between 1771 and 1826; decorations of the Gabriel and Dufour pavilions.


Some of the details which will be too long for a post actually can create a blog just on them are:

Above the sentry boxes framing the grille d’honneur you see the allegories of Victory honor grid in the guise of a winged woman brandishing a laurel wreath and slaying a male figure, accompanied by various attributes, weapons trophies and emblems. On pedestals at the top of the ramps of the Allegories of Peace and Abundance forecourt, each depicted as a woman with various attributes, accompanied by winged children and defeating a figure of an old woman, a symbol discord for one and starvation for the other. The bronze relief console with scrolls and grooves decorated with a newt mask from above and freezing on the plinth. The Crown surmounted by a fleur-de-lys and supported by griffins’ legs. Globe with the figure of the King surmounted by the mask of Apollo irradiated and accosted by two horns of plenty.


From the small castle built for king Louis XIII in 1624 to 1630 remain the wonderful Cour de Marbre and its architecture of brick, stone and slate. Preserved, or more exactly reconstructed identically over time, the three facades that frame the Cour de Marbre were very early decorated between 1663 and 1665, in the two angles they form, with small cabinets on horn and the floor and fountains on the lower level; in 1671-1672 aviaries were placed in front of corner cabinets and a third fountain adorned the center of the courtyard. All this disappeared in 1678-1680 in favor of a more monumental party aiming to further ennoble the facades: the main facade, at the end of the courtyard, was enriched by a higher body than the rest of the buildings, while the attic is adorned with railings that run along the two courtyards.


The buildings that line the Royal Court today have undergone more transformations than those of the Cour de Marbre: in 1662, Louis Le Vau built the two wings of the Commons (stables and kitchens) in the style of the old castle. Ten years later ,1670-1672, they became the Ailes des Offices; they are then connected to the palace by the construction of two bodies of buildings which extend them with a step; at their ends, they are decorated with porticos aligned with the grid which delimits the new Royal Court. In 1680, when the offices are installed in the Grand Commun, the architecture of the two wings divided into apartments,are again modified in order to be more in harmony with that of the buildings of the cour de Marbre: the attic is raised and bordered by a balustrade, the end pavilions are topped with a lantern.

But this unity was broken when Gabriel reconstructed between 1771 and 1774 the north wing which was called the aile du Gouvernement wing (it housed the accommodation of the governor of Versailles) in the neoclassical style. As this Gabriel wing was called the new wing, the symmetrical wing takes the name of old wing. It was in turn altered when Dufour rebuilt the main pavilion Dufour using the architecture of Gabriel. Finally, among the works carried out under the direction of F. Nepveu for the creation of the Louis-Philippe museum, (the king of the French who save Versailles) see the construction of a lantern in the southwest corner of the Royal Court, which will disappear in 1897.

It’s awesome , so much architecture details and history , always amazes me anyway.  A bit of a tourist office of Versailles on the building of this marvel in English here: Tourist office of Versailles on construction history

The Palace:museum is huge( and the Domaine is out of this world)  and very much a must to see in Versailles . However, remember Versailles is the royal historical town of France, there is a lot more than the palace/museum… Enjoy the post as I do!!!

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

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