A walk through the gardens of Versailles to know its fantastic history

A walk through the gardens of Versailles to know its fantastic history

There is no doubt that Versailles has one of the most impressive gardens in the world. Some may like it more and others less, maybe you don’t think it’s the most beautiful green set on the planet; but its extension, the number of elements that house and the impeccable order of all its vegetal structure, are absolutely majestic. Versailles is an immense domain, with three palaces surrounded by parks full of sculptures, fountains, temples and all the whims that a garden can have.

We took some pictures of a recent trip to talk about him. Although the photos are made with the camera of the mobile and do not have a lot of quality, they will serve to approach the place while we tell the interesting details of its fantastic history.

Before being this Baroque architectural work that we know today, with golden doors and windows, rooms full of treasures and well-kept gardens, the domains of Versailles were a humble fief surrounded by forests full of pheasants, wild boars and deer, to which Luis XIII, while still a child, went hunting with his father Henry IV, king of France.

The young Dolphin, crowned in 1610, returned a few years later to Versailles and his taste for the place grew stronger. In 1623 he decided to build a hunting lodge where to spend the night, a humble residence that had nothing to do with the palace that is now. His pleasure in the pleasures that the area offered led him to buy part of the fief and rebuild the building, which is 1934 already looked a lot like the palace we know today.

But the great protagonist of Versailles is Louis XIV, the Sun King, who assumed the role of the architect to turn the castle built by his father and the surrounding estate into the masterpiece that it is today. Lover of the outdoors and the gardens, he moved the Court to this place to have it entertained and subdued. He needed to expand the château to house more than 20,000 people and create the finest and most delicious gardens were to offer his courtiers all kinds of pleasures.

The palace garden, commissioned by André le Nôtre, was designed to exalt the myth of Apollo, which was represented with the Sun, and also identified with the sovereign. It is structured in several terraces that lead from the gardens (man-controlled nature) to the forest (free nature). On the first level are the flower beds, fully subdued, with low hedges that enclose plants with lush flowers. Two ponds reflect the grandeur of the building.

The Tapis Vert, a large green avenue that starts at the source of Latona and ends at Apollo,  constitutes the second level of the garden, less rigid than the previous one. Small perfectly arranged trees grow on both sides of the route, but with some relief. Among them, there are ponds, sculptures, colonnades, and other architectural elements. The walk ends at the gigantic fountain of Apollo, with a statue of God emerging from it to illuminate the world.

Water is the protagonist of the third and last level of the garden, a huge cross-shaped pond formed by the Grand Canal and the Petit-Canal. There were a large number of boats on the canal: a galley, a frigate, merchant ships, gondolas, and rowing boats. The Royal Fleet of Versailles served the monarch with a double purpose: small ships were used to entertain the court, and large ones to show the king’s great power.

All this landscaped space occupied a quarter of the Royal Domain of Versailles, beyond the free forest. It was built in four stages, between 1662 and 1709. It involved works of enormous magnitude and a complex hydraulic system to store and distribute the water that plants and fountains required in large proportions.

At the death of the Sun King, his great-grandson and heir Louis XV  was only 5 years old. He was born in Versailles and there he assumed power when he reached adulthood. On the advice of his great-grandfather, the new monarch did not make large expenses in construction, but he was a great lover of botany and created a new garden, a botanical school and a greenhouse next to the Trianon. In 1762, the sovereign ordered to build a simpler palace that would allow him to spend more time near the plants. It is the well-known Petit Trianon. Here he got smallpox and died.

When ascending to the throne Louis XVI, grandson of the previous one, Versailles underwent a great transformation. The new monarch liked the style of gardening practiced by the English and tried to apply it on their land. Due to the topography, the idea of the English garden did not work out, and the French style was resumed. Many of the forests planted by the Sun King disappeared during this period.

In 1791, Louis XVI and his wife, Maria Antonieta, left Versailles (and this world shortly after) by the decision of the National Convention, the government of the new Republic. The gardens also fell out of favor, trees were cut down and some sections of the park were destroyed.

Claude Marie Richard, director of the botanical garden during those fateful days, went to the French government to beg their protection. He succeeded by arguing that the lands could serve as orchards and to plant fruit trees, something that never happened. The garden was opened to the public, but it was degraded in later years.

With the arrival of Pierre de Nolhac, director of the museum of Versailles since 1886, a new era began in the castle and its gardens. Nolhac was a passionate historian who devoted much of his life to investigating the past of that domain. His intention was to restore the appearance he had in his glory times and he succeeded. Thanks to him and to those who continued the project in the following years, Versailles is the wonder we can see today.

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