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VERSAILLES

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V27, Page 1040 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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VERSAILLES, a town of northern France, capital of the department of Seine-et-Oise, 12 M. by road W.S.W. of Paris, with which it is connected by rail and tram. Pop. (1906) town, 45,246; commune, J4,820. Versailles owes its existence to the palace built by Louis XIV. It stands 46o ft. above the sea, and its fresh healthy air and nearness to the capital attract many residents. The three avenues of St Cloud, Paris and Sceaux converge in the Place d'Armes. Between them stand the former stables of the palace, now occupied by the artillery and engineers. To the south lies the quarter of Satory, the oldest part of Versailles, with the cathedral of St Louis, and to the north the new quarter, with the church of Notre Dame. To the west a gilded 1 See Gay, Cart. fined. i. p. 367. iron gate and a stone balustrade shut off the great court of the palace from the Place d'Armes. In this court, which slopes upwards from the gate, stand statues of Richelieu, Conde, Du Guesclin and other famous Frenchmen. At the highest point there is an equestrian statue in bronze of Louis XIV., and to the right and left of this stretch the long wings of the palace, while behind it extend the Cour Royale and the smaller Cour de Marbre, to the north, south and west of which rise the central buildings. The buildings clustered round the Cour de Marbre, which include the apartments of Louis XIV., project into the gardens on the west considerably beyond the rest of the facade. To the north the Chapel Court and to the south the Princes Court, with vaulted passages leading to the gardens, separate the side from the central buildings. On the other is the inscription, " A toutes les gloires de la France," which Louis Philippe justified by forming a collection of works of art (valued at £t,000,000), commemorating the great events and persons of French history. The palace chapel (1696-171o), the roof of which can be seen from afar rising above the rest of the building, was the last work of J. Hardouin-Mansart. The ground-floor of the north wing on the garden side contains eleven halls of historical pictures from Clovis to Louis XVI., and on the side of the interior courts a gallery containing casts of royal funereal monuments. The Halls of the Crusades open off this gallery, and are decorated with the arms of crusaders and with modern pictures dealing with that period. On the first floor of the north wing on the garden side are ten halls of pictures commemorating historical events from 1795 to 1830; on the court side is the Gallery of Sculpture, which contains the Joan of Arc of the princess Marie of Orleans; and there are seven halls chiefly devoted to French campaigns and generals in Africa, Italy, the Crimea and Mexico, with some famous war pictures by Horace Vernet. The second storey has a portrait gallery. In the north wing is also the theatre built under Louis XV. by Jacques-Ange Gabriel, which was first used on the 16th of May 1770 on the marriage of the dauphin (afterwards Louis XVI.) and Marie Antoinette. Here, on the 2nd of October 1789, the celebrated banquet was given to the Gardes du Corps, the toasts at which provoked the riots that drove the royal family from Versailles; and here the National Assembly met from the loth of March 1871 till the proclamation of the constitution in 1875, and the Senate from the 8th of March 1876 till the return of the two chambers to Paris in 1879. On the ground-floor of the central buildings are the halls of celebrated warriors (once the anteroom of Madame de Pompadour), marshals, constables and admirals, and the suite of rooms known as the Dauphin's Apartments, now given up to historical portraits. The Galerie Basse, once known as the Gallery of Louis XIII., leads to the rooms surrounding the Marble Court, a series of which contains many plans of battles. The lobbies of the ground-floor are full of busts, statues and tombs of kings and celebrated men. The famous staterooms are on the first floor. On the garden side, facing the north, are a series of seven halls, some of them decorated with tapestries representing the life of Louis XIV. Among them may be mentioned the Hall of Hercules, till 1710 the upper half of the old chapel, where the dukes of Chartres, Maine and Burgundy were married, and Bossuet, Massillon and Bourdaloue preached; the Hall of Mercury, where the coffin of Louis XIV. stood for eight days after his death; and the Hall of Apollo, or throne room. To the front of the palace, facing the west, are the Galleries of War and Peace, with allegorical pictures, and the Glass Gallery, built by Mansart in 1678 (235 ft. long, 35 wide and 42 high), having 34 arches, 17 of which are filled with windows looking on the gardens and 17 with large mirrors. The gallery is overloaded with ornament, and the pictures by Charles Lebrun, the trophies and figures of children by Antoine Coysevox, and the inscriptions attributed to Boileau and Racine, all glorify Louis XIV. This gallery was used by him as a throne room on state occasions. Here the king of Prussia was proclaimed emperor of Germany on the 18th of January 1871. Connected with the Gallery of Peace are the queens apartments, occupied successively by Marie Therese, Marie Leczinska and Marie Antoinette, where the duchess of Angoulenie was born, the duchess of Burgundy died, and Marie Antoinette was almost assassinated on the 6th of October 1789. Behind the Glass Gallery on the side of the court are the rooms of Louis XIV. The Eil de Bceuf, named from its oval window, was the anteroom where the courtiers waited till the king rose. In it is a picture representing Louis XIV. and his family as Olympian deities; and it leads to the bedroom in which Louis XIV. died, after using it from 1701, and which Louis XV. occupied from 1722 to 1738. In the south wing of the palace, on the ground-floor, is the Gallery of the Republic and the First Empire, the rooms of which contain paintings of scenes in the life of Napoleon I. A sculpture gallery contains busts of celebrated scholars, artists, generals and public men from the time of Louis XVI. onwards. In the south wing is also the room where the Chamber Clay sketch for the monument of Cardinal Forteguerra, showing the kneeling portrait of the cardinal, which is not in the actual monument; a very poor modern figure occupies its place. r
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