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Palace of Versailles Facts

Detail of a fleur-de-lys, symbol of the French monarchy, at a restoration workshop for the Palace of Versailles.

Detail of a fleur-de-lys, symbol of the French monarchy, at a restoration workshop for the Palace of Versailles. (View larger version)

Photograph by National Geographic Channels/ Max Salomon

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  • Versailles is both a palace (palais) and a castle (chateau). Members of the court at Versailles used both words interchangeably.

  • The Palace of Versailles was accessible to members of the public, who would gather for royal audiences, or even just to stroll and chat.

  • Damage to decorative vases and statues in the gardens once lead Louis XIV to make them private, but he later changed his mind, proclaiming that his beloved fountains should be “for the public”.

  • After its construction, Versailles soon became the subject of widespread admiration and was imitated throughout Europe.

  • The Versailles of old was dimly lit, as lighting was used sparingly to protect its ornate walls and ceilings from smoke damage. Mirrors gained favor as a way of boosting available candlelight, an infatuation that culminated in the Hall of Mirrors.

  • On grand occasions, twenty thousand candles and glittering chandeliers would be used to transform the Hall of Mirrors into a “corridor of light”.

  • Louis XIV, the Sun King, controlled his image using stringent etiquette and ceremony. Every mundane act, including getting up in the morning or going to bed, was turned into a performance that the public attended in reverence.

  • Louis XIV had a passion for fountains, and as much as a third of Versailles’ total building budget was spent on its water supply system alone

  • The Hall of Mirrors (Galerie des Glaces), originally known as the Great Hall (Grande Galerie), used to be an outdoor terrace. It was later converted into a dazzling indoor space to showcase one of Louis XIV’s most prized collections—his sculptures of antiquity.

  • The Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended the First World War, was signed in Versailles’ stunning Hall of Mirrors. It was also in this very room that, nearly five decades earlier, Germany had declared itself an empire.
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