The secret history of the Palace of Versailles that few visitors know about
- Lily Radzimsky
- BBC Travel
The palace seemed a mirage in itself.
The waters of the canal sparkled in the sun, drawing my gaze to it.
The stately building dominated the landscape, and the landscape seemed designed for it.
I rode my bike. Strong beams of light cut through the narrow crevices between the trees and crushed my gravel tires.
As I cycled down a hidden path, the crimson leaves of the trees covered my head and open fields stretched in the distance.
There was no one present. But a short distance away, inside the lavish ballrooms of the Palace of Versailles, thousands of people thronged.
I was in Versailles parka 2,000-acre gaming arena for the kings, queens, and political leaders who made up France’s ruling class until the late 18th century.
Versailles was the center of power and the physical embodiment of the absolute monarchy that prevailed in France until the revolution of 1788-1799.
The palace witnessed strategic marriages and official visits.
But the property was built entirely for other reasons: comfortwith large lawn and small manicured gardens used Hedonism and debauchery.
In the centuries since it was built, Versailles has become one of the most famous and most visited palaces in the world, a site that receives 27,000 visitors daily.
But there is another story outside the palacewhich stretches for miles and is almost impossible to cover on foot in one day.
There, amid the fresh air and solitude, another aspect of the great vision of the wonderful place can be seen.
“When you go to the gardens, you learn more about the history of Louis XIV, XV, and XVI,” tour guide Mara Alfaro Brace told me.
“Versailles is more than just paintings or chandeliers.”
It all began in 1623 when Louis XIII built a hunting lodge in the countryside around the small town of Versailles, about 20 km southwest of central Paris.
But his son, Louis XIV, had bigger plans for the causes.
“In Paris, he could not enlarge the palaces because the urban fabric was too dense… At Versailles it was the opposite.”
The King didn’t just want more space.
“Louis XIV needed what we call today a ‘bachelor’s apartment’, ie Little House of Pleasures“…for fun parties with some friends,” said Michele Verger-Francheschi, co-author of the book. A historical erotic of Versailles.
“So he created Versailles partly for his pleasure, for his sexuality, with amazing gardens.”
Near the top of the park’s Grand Canal, hidden among cafes and restaurants, is a pavilion where visitors can rent bikes.
On my way to it, last fall, I passed by Latona FountainI collected orange leaves falling from the carved trees and wanted to know more about the flower-filled gardens and romantic orchards.
They were the work of André Lenotre, the king’s gardener.
“It’s a garden where nothing is left to chance,” Hélène Dallevard, the palace’s director of communications, told me.
The gaze is always directed towards a particular effect… The idea is to imagine the garden as a museum in it The visitor thinks he is walking with no goalwhile in reality you are completely guided by the effects of perspective“.
The dimensions of Versailles and its park were carefully calculated to reflect the Louvre; the Etoile Royal (The view at the other end of the channel) f Apollo Fountain It is exactly the same distance as Place de l’Êtoile and Place de la Concorde in Paris.
The distance between the Apollo Fountain and the Palace of Versailles is the same as the distance between the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre Museum.
There are optical illusions and hidden groves Hidden messages allude to it sol’ around the parkthe personal symbol chosen by Louis XIV Who is known as the Sun King.
To reinforce this connection, the image of Apollo, the Greek god of the sun, appears in the fountains, groves, and statues of the place. Symbolically, Versailles will revolve around him and the gardens will be his setting.
“Versailles was the king’s theatre,” said Verges-Franceschi, adding that Louis XIV even wrote a book on the right way to visit the gardens.
The route, which starts at the top of the park’s steps, is much like an instruction manual, with precise directions on where to walk, to stop, and what to admire along the way.
In 1661, when Louis XIV married Maria Theresa of Austria, he met Louise de la Valliere, the woman who would become his first official mistress.
“She would ride a horse in the garden…she could stand on a horse holding the animal’s reins with ropes of silk, and kill a wild boar in the forest of Versailles with stakes,” said Vergé-Francheschi.
They would meet privately, at Louis XIII’s hunting lodge in the park.
“Because the castle was very small before Louis XIV enlarged it, most of the parties took place in the gardens,” da Vinha said.
There were six days of splendid festivities, with carousels, fireworks and works by the famous French playwright Molière, formally presented in honor of Louis XIV’s mother and wife, but unofficially dedicated to the Duchess of La Valliere.
The garden has an air of excess and exclusivity, but surprisingly, The grounds are not closed to the public.
The whole complex remained open, from the king’s bedroom (while he was not there) to the gardens and park.
Da Vinha explained that “the tradition of the French monarchy is that a king should be accessible to his subjects, so that one can enter a castle very freely provided one is elegantly dressed.”
Lack of privacy can be a contributing factor to the expansion of causes.
In Versailles, the palace was not enough.
Desiring a place to escape to, Louis XIV commissioned the Grand Trianon At the northern end of the Grand Canal in 1670.
This was where he spent some time with Madame de Montespan, the mistress who had replaced Louise de la Valliere.
It’s a 30-minute walk from the palace to the site, but it’s a 5-minute bike ride to the rental stand.
The Grand Trianon sits on higher ground, its salmon-pink marble walls curving in arcs open to the landscape. It’s breezy and beautiful, like a little jewelry box born out of nowhere.
A short distance from the Grand Trianon Little Trianona chateau for Louis XV commissioned in 1758 by the Comtesse de Barry, his mistress at the time (it was intended for Madame de Pompadour, but she died before completion).
It would eventually be offered to Marie Antoinette as a gift from Louis XVI in 1774. She spent most of her time there.
The isolation of the Versailles monarchy played a role in the revolution. There they lived in luxury while the French starved, and hundreds of citizens finally stormed the place in 1789.
“Contributed to Versailles [Luis XVI y María Antonieta] disconnected from realityVerge-Franceschi said.
A few years after the revolution, the palace and its gardens were absorbed by the republic to be kept for the public.
*This artThe article is part of the BBC Travel series slow motionAnd which celebrates slow, self-paced travel and invites readers to get outside and reconnect with the world in a safe and sustainable way. If you want to read the original textclick here.
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