We took a trip to visit the ornate halls of Versailles this month. Roaming through the sumptuous rooms of the château is an entry into another empire, where all revolved around the king. There was no limit to the opulence and laudation in his honor.
The most celebrated and well-known hall of the château is the Hall of Mirrors - the Baroque gallery and symbol of Versailles itself. The hall and its surrounding rooms were tribute to Louis XIV, ‘le Roi-Soleil’ (the sun king). Louis XIV brought the reign of “Le Grand Siècle” (the Great Century) to France. He was a strong, absolute monarch and Versailles - and his transformation of it - became the emblem of his power.
The Hall of Mirrors, which measures 73 meters long, praises the glory of France at its time. There are over 350 mirrors lining the room and illustrate the abundance of the time. The choice to adorn such an important gallery with mirrors and glass in the château was a deliberate show of force by the French monarch. The Venetians were the masters of glass at that time and had a monopoly on mirror casting, a true luxury in the 17th century.
As the Hall of Mirrors is positioned just outside the King’s bedchambers, it was a place where the court waited and met regularly. Balls and ceremonies were held here under Louis XIV and subsequent kings, and still today. The Treaty of Versailles would also eventually be signed in this gallery, ending WWI in June of 1919.
Thirty magnificent paintings don the vaulted ceiling by Charles Le Brun. The paintings depict a period of military success, mixed with themes from Antiquity. The ornate paintings on the ceiling of The Hall of Mirrors are carefully explained on this site.
Past the Hall of Mirrors one walks through the King’s bedchambers and the private royal apartments. The entire palace is ornate, but entering these chambers makes clear the king’s unsurpassed importance and standing. The king’s rooms are dripping in gilding and opulence. His grand bedstead is decorated with coronets of snow-white ostrich feathers, a symbol of the royal couple.
This is the Queen's relatively sober bedroom, by comparison. Louis XIV was infamous for his many mistresses and lack of love for Queen Maria Theresa of Spain. When he learned the Queen had died after an illness, Louis XIV is famous for responding coldly, “This is the first time she’s caused me any bother.”
Even the rooms, the passageways and details that are less ornate are sublime at Versailles. A visual voyage to savor.