The Palace of Versailles, Château de Versailles, or simply Versailles , is a royal château in Versailles in the Île-de-France region of France. It is now open as a museum, and a very popular tourist attraction.
When the château was built, Versailles was a small village dating from the 11th century; today, however, it is a wealthy suburb of Paris, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) southwest of the centre of the French capital. Versailles was the seat of political power in the Kingdom of France from 1682, when King Louis XIV moved the royal court from Paris, until the royal family was forced to return to the capital in October 1789, within three months after the beginning of the French Revolution. Versailles is therefore famous not only as a building, but as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy of the Ancien Régime.
Especially under Louis XIV, the whole senior nobility were pressured to spend large amounts of time at Versailles, as a form of political control. Louis XIV evolved a rigid routine of court life as a performance, much of which took place in front of large groups of people, at some points in the day including tourists. Building the château and maintaining the court there was phenomenally expensive, but did a good deal to establish the dominance of French style and taste in the whole of Europe, giving French luxury manufacturing advantages that long outlasted the fall of the Ancien Régime.
Louis XIV’s expansion of the building was begun around 1661, with Louis Le Vau as architect. It was not completed until about 1715, having been worked on by architects including François d’Orbay, Charles Le Brun (interiors especially), Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Robert de Cotte. André Le Nôtre began the gardens and structures in them. There were a range of satellite buildings around the grounds. While the main château building remains essentially intact, though without much of its contents, some of these have been destroyed.
First built by Louis XIII in 1623, as a hunting lodge of brick and stone, the edifice was enlarged into a royal palace by Louis XIV. The first phase of the expansion (c. 1661–1678) was designed and supervised by the architect Louis Le Vau. It culminated in the addition of three new wings of stone (the enveloppe), which encompassed Louis XIII’s original building on the north, south, and west (the garden side). After Le Vau’s death in 1670, the work was taken over and completed by his assistant François d’Orbay. Charles Le Brun designed and supervised the elaborate interior decoration, and André Le Nôtre landscaped the extensive Gardens of Versailles. Le Brun and Le Nôtre collaborated on the numerous fountains, and Le Brun supervised the design and installation of countless statues.
During the second phase of expansion of the mansion (c. 1678–1715), two enormous wings north and south of the wings flanking the Cour Royale (Royal Courtyard) were added by the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart. He also replaced Le Vau’s large terrace, facing the garden on the west, with what became the most famous room of the palace, the Hall of Mirrors. Mansart also built the Petites Écuries and Grandes Écuries (stables) across the Place d’Armes, on the eastern side of the château, and, in 1687, the Grand Trianon, or Trianon de Marbre (Marble Trianon), replacing Le Vau’s 1668 Trianon de Porcelaine in the northern section of the park. Work was sufficiently advanced by 1682, that Louis XIV was able to proclaim Versailles his principal residence and the seat of the government of the Kingdom of France and also to give rooms in the palace to almost all of his courtiers. After the death of his consort Maria Theresa of Spain in 1683, Louis XIV undertook the enlargement and remodeling of the royal apartments in the original part of the palace, the former hunting lodge built by his father. The Royal Chapel of Versailles, located at the south end of the north wing, was begun by Mansart in 1688, and after his death in 1708 completed by his assistant Robert de Cotte in 1710.