Domaine de Versailles!!!

Oh yes when started my blog way back in 2010 ,I wrote a post on the Versailles property that the world comes there to see. However, in France we make a distinction between the Château or Palace and the Domaine or Domain of Versailles. One is just one building while the latter is the whole property including dependencies. Let me tell you a bit of the history of the Palace and the things in the Domain of Versailles.

One of the grands of our world, a must to visit when in France or even to come just for it!! The domaine de Versailles is the set of lands and buildings of 850 Ha. (8000 Ha before the French revolution) dependent on the Palace of Versailles. You do the math as one hectare is equal to 2.471 acres.

Besides the castle, it includes 93 ha of gardens and 300 ha of forest. You count 20 km of enclosures, 42 km of alleys, and 372 magnificent statues !   However, also, the Petit and Grand Trianon with a park of 80 ha for the Grand and 50 ha for the Petit. Also, the Hameau de la Reine, the Grand and Petit Canal, Orangerie, and the pièce d’eau des 3 Suisses. It has 55 basins! The biggest are the Grand Canal 23 Ha, and 500 000 M3 of water and the Piéce d’Eau des 3 Suisses with 180 000 M3 of water. A total of 35 km of canals and 600 water jets.

The Palace of Versailles also has an Royal Opera house and a Royal Chapel.   The chapel created between 1689 and 1710, the Kings regularly attended daily mass. It has been completely renovated this December 2020! The Opera, inaugurated in 1770, was one of the last buildings of the Palace of Versailles. This museum (palace of Versailles) is the biggest in the world with 18000 m2 of space.

We love the gardens where we walked, jogged, had picnics in the back and enjoy a nice croissant etc at Angelina by the Petit Trianon.  To admire and understand Le Nôtre’s masterpiece, you have to go and discover it from above, from the king’s and queen’s apartments and the Hall of Mirrors.  Then, in the gardens, passing through the steps of the bassin de Latone, the majestic prospect of the reflecting pool leads to the chariot of Apollo. Then, you have to get lost in the plant labyrinth to better savor the effects of surprise that the discovery of the fourteen green rooms has in store. Among these creations, the salle de Bal or ballroom and its rockeries. The days of Musical Fountains, gardens and groves are a visual and sound enchantment.

The park is spread around the Grand Canal, a 23 hectare body of water with a 5.5 km periphery. Its major axis towards the sunset extends the perspective of the garden towards infinity between the hedge of large Italian poplars, the proud silhouettes of which can be seen beyond the water. At the head of the Canal, the buildings of Little Venice are reminiscent of gondoliers and gondolas, yachts and galleys which made up the flotilla and which were used for walks, for concerts or for nautical festivals. The transverse arm of the Grand Canal linked the Menagerie (now destroyed) to Trianon.

On either side of the Grand Canal are forest plots made up of local tree varieties and crisscrossed by large alleys. These are bordered by single or double rows that were once planted with elms and today with tillers and beeches. The trees are rigorously pruned, making up a real plant architecture. Near the Castle,the flowerbeds were designed to be seen from the first floor. The parterre du Midi, boxwood embroidery decorated with flowers; the parterre du Nord, all of boxwood and grass; in the center, the two mirrors of the parterre d’Eau bordered by reclining statues representing the rivers of France, masterpieces of sculpture. At the bend of an alley new points of view are offered, new fountains, new statues, trellis cradles,and   topiaries. Fantasy can be found in the groves , today 9. These groves are rooms of greenery nestled in the small woods located between the alleys; when one goes through these, one cannot suspect the existence of these wonders.

The property goes back way back of the Grand Canal into the towns of St Cyr l’école and its many gates or portes that encircle the old Domain of Versailles for 43 km!!. My favorite here was the Porte de Bailly still visible from the Ferme de Gally on St Cyr l’école. 700 meters from it you can still see the Porte de Noisy with a garden guardian house still there. Much further in the enclosure you have the Porte de Buc (town of Buc) ,Porte de Saint Cyr(town of St Cyr l’école) ,Porte d’Aréne (town of St Nom la Bretêche ) Porte de Jouy et Porte de Loches (town of Jouy en Loches) , Porte de Mérantais (town of St Quentin en Yvelines) , pavillon de Chateaufort (town of Chateaufort) ,Porte de Puissaloup (town of Bois d’Arcy) ,my favorite entrance to the Domaine , porte Saint Antoine or Porte de la Reine ( town of Versailles) ,Porte de Trou Salé (town of Toussus le Noble) ,Porte d’entrées or entering gate (town of St Nom la Bretêche private occupied today). You see my Domaine de Versailles!

A bit of history I like

The first mentioned of Versailles dates from 1038 where monks erect a Church of Saint Julien. By 1472 , the first complete mentioned of the city is as Versailles-aux-Bourg-de-Galie (new French, Versailles in the town of Gally). by 1475 the Lords of Versailles give right to Trianon to the abbey of Sain Germain, first mentioned of Trianon in texts. by 1589 first time king Louis XIII stops by Versailles, which he again will visit in 1604,1607, and 1609 ;while doing his first hunt in 1607. By 1623 ,king Louis XIII has built a modest country manor home in bricks to spent his time hunting and passing by but never sleeps in it.

The first castle type construction was done by what is today the cour de marbre or courtyard of marble, being of 24 meters long and 6 meters wide. On April 18, 1632 king Louis XIII buys the lands and domaine of Versailles to Jean-François de Gondi, bishop of Paris. New lands around it are purchased and a bigger castle is built in 1634. King Louis XIII died on May 14 ,1643.

His son king Louis XIV lived in Paris at the Louvre, and was born in nearby Saint Germain-en-Laye. By 1651 does his first visit to Versailles and on October 25th, 1660 takes there for the first time his wife queen Maria Teresa (Spain). From 1661-1668 renovations and new constructions takes over the life of the domaine. He brings in the crew that built the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte (seine et marne dept 77) as Le Vau, the architect, Errard and Coypel, the decorators, and Le Notre ,the gardener. By 1664 the first parties are done in the castle including plays by Moliére. First statues place in the gardens done in 1665 , the Grand Canal was built in 1667 . The biggest party is thrown on July 18 1668 to make the castle known to the world.

In the period, 1668-1670 the castle is enlarged again with encircling the old building all done by architect Le Vau, and after his death in 1670 by his successor architect d’Orbay. The Trianon de Porcelain (replace by the Grand Trianon) is built in 1670 , and at this time many hôtel particuliéres or manor houses are built of great richness such as the ones of Luxembourg, Noailles,Guise,Bouillon, and Gesvres. Between 1678-1686 the galerie des glaces or the Hall of mirrors (73 meters long) is built with decorations by Le Brun. By 1682 even before all is finished the king Louix XIV comes to live in the castle.

Meanwhile, more construction is going on between 1685-89 . New Orangerie, (see post) Grand Comun (for servants and lesser officials quarters -see post) , the stables  of Petite and Grande Ecuries (see post).  1700 new apartments are done to house the duke of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV, future king of Spain under Felipe V (the Bourbon line is done, ancestors of today’s king of Spain Felipe VI ,his father king Juan Carlos I was fifth in line to the throne of France).

By 1689-1710,  the Royal Chapel is built; upon king Louis XIV death in 1715, Louis XV finally comes to live in Versailles in 1722 at the age of 12 years old, and makes his preference to lived at the Grand Trianon later more so the queen Marie Leszczynska . Meanwhile renovations and constructions continues from 1729 on such as the Salon d’Hercules in 1729-1736, the Royal Opéra 1768-1770, and the Petit Trianon 1761-1768. In 1770 the marriage of the dauphin heir future Louis XVI with Marie-Antoinette de Lorraine, archduchess of Austria is held here at the Royal Chapel.

Comes king Louis XVI, he builts the library in 1774 done by Gabriel. Cabinet Dorée or golden cabinet built in 1783 to house the collections of Louis XV, his father. then comes the French revolution.  The Estates Generaux are held here and from October 6, 1789 the castle is never the same again. All traces of kings is taken down, all objects are spread all over France and abroad.  the statues, sculptures and paintings as well as furniture is sold all over Europe. A sad time indeed. Then comes reason in the name of the new monarch of king Louis-Philippe in 1830, he decides for good that the castle can be save if made into a museum !  ” FOR ALL THE GLORIES OF FRANCE”. The museum is open on June 10, 1837, hails greatly by one Victor Hugo.

Here the treaty of Versailles ending  WWI is done on June 28 1919.  The French constitution has it that all changes or amendments to the French constitution as per article 89 needs the National Assembly or Assamblée Générale (house of reps) and the Senate,and the President and his cabinet must move and do those changes debates in Versailles. While here the city of Versailles becomes the de facto Capital of France!!! Like it never has stopped being it !!!!!!!!!!

It has welcome celebraties and events such as in 1972 Queen Elisabeth II of England (UK) 1974 the Shah of Iran, 1985 Mickaïl Gorbachev, 1992 Boris Yeltsin, and 1982  served as reunion site for the G7, amongst many more including serving as office of Pres Charles De Gaulle!

The latest info for ticketing : All these places are to be discovered thanks to the “Passport with hourly reservation” ticket which allows access to the entire estate (the castle with access within half an hour following the chosen schedule, the gardens, the Trianon estate ). This ticket allows access to the gardens on the days of Musical Fountains and Musical Gardens, during which all the groves are open and the pools are filled with water. Tariff is 27€ on Musical Fountains or Musical Gardens days , and 20€ excluding Musical Fountains and Musical Gardens days.

Some webpages for more info and planning for your next visit as soon as possible are

The official Chateau de Versailles:  http://en.chateauversailles.fr/

The city of Versailles on history/heritage info:   https://www.versailles.fr/ma-ville/decouvrir/histoire-de-versailles/

The official tourist office of the city of Versailles :https://en.versailles-tourisme.com/

In French but the little city newspaper , Le Petit Versaillais ( the little person of Versailles =versaillais) that you can subscribe for news of the city in general, give all the everyday life of it including tourist updates and information. Webpage: http://www.lepetitversaillais.fr/

If you want to help restore and maintain this wonderful property call the Domaine de Versailles and join millions around the world who do, including me, this is the webpage for Les Amis de Versailles or the friends of Versailles.  https://www.amisdeversailles.com/?lang=en

Of course impossible to name them all, the property is huge, this will give some ideas and history to search. If need any detail information feel free to post a question or contact me on this blog. I lived there for 9 glorious years!!! Hope you enjoy the tidbits of info on the post of my fav Domaine de Versailles! 

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

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