An Animated History of Versailles: Six Minutes of Animation Show the Construction of the Grand Palace Over 400 Years

Few tourists mak­ing their first trip to France go home with­out hav­ing seen Ver­sailles. But why do so many want to see Ver­sailles in the first place? Yes, its his­to­ry goes all the way back to the 1620s, with its com­par­a­tive­ly mod­est begin­nings as a hunt­ing lodge built for King Louis XIII, but much in Europe goes back quite a bit fur­ther. It did house the French roy­al fam­i­ly for gen­er­a­tions, but absolute monar­chy has­n’t been a favored insti­tu­tion in France for quite some time. Only the most jad­ed vis­i­tors could come away unim­pressed by the palace’s sheer grand­ness, but those in need of a hit of osten­ta­tion can always get it on cer­tain shop­ping streets in Paris. The appeal of Ver­sailles, and of Ver­sailles alone, must have more do with the way it phys­i­cal­ly embod­ies cen­turies of French his­to­ry.

You can watch that his­to­ry unfold through the con­struc­tion of Ver­sailles, both exte­ri­or and inte­ri­or, in these two videos from the offi­cial Ver­sailles Youtube chan­nel. The first begins with Louis XII­I’s hunt­ing lodge, which, when the “Sun King” Louis XIV inher­it­ed its site, had been replaced by a small stone-and-brick chateau. There Louis XIV launched an ambi­tious build­ing cam­paign, and the half-cen­tu­ry-long project ulti­mate­ly pro­duced the largest chateau in all Europe.

The Sun King moved his gov­ern­ment and court there, and of course con­tin­ued mak­ing addi­tions and refine­ments all the while, extend­ing the com­plex out­ward with more and more new build­ings. Louis XIV’s suc­ces­sor Louis XV put his own archi­tec­tur­al stamp on the palace as well, sub­di­vid­ing its spaces into small­er apart­ments and adding an opera house.

But when the French Rev­o­lu­tion came in 1789, the roy­al fam­i­ly had to vacate Ver­sailles tout de suite. Then came the removal of the abso­lutism-sym­bol­iz­ing “roy­al rail­ings” out front, the tak­ing of its paint­ings that hung on its walls to the Lou­vre (the third most pop­u­lar tourist attrac­tion in France, inci­den­tal­ly, two spots ahead of Ver­sailles), and the auc­tion­ing off of its fur­ni­ture. While the anti-monar­chi­cal fer­vor of the peri­od imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing the rev­o­lu­tion was­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly good to Ver­sailles, lat­er rulers imple­ment­ed restora­tions, and the cur­rent Fifth Repub­lic may well have spent more on the place than even Louis XIV did. And so we have one more rea­son six mil­lion peo­ple want to vis­it Ver­sailles each and every year: they want to see whether France is get­ting its mon­ey worth.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ver­sailles 3D, Cre­at­ed by Google, Gives You an Impres­sive Tour of Louis XIV’s Famous Palace

A 3D Ani­mat­ed His­to­ry of Paris: Take a Visu­al Jour­ney from Ancient Times to the World’s Fair of 1889

French Illus­tra­tor Revives the Byzan­tine Empire with Mag­nif­i­cent­ly Detailed Draw­ings of Its Mon­u­ments & Build­ings: Hagia Sophia, Great Palace & More

14,000 Free Images from the French Rev­o­lu­tion Now Avail­able Online

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.