the beginning of the 17th century Versailles was nothing but a tiny village
with a population of 500 residents. The place where now stands the majestic
Versailles palace was then taken by windmills and the surrounding fields
and lakes. The whole territory was simply a slightly-sloping valley enclosed
with low hills on all sides.
1631 King Louis XIII built a small hunting lodge because the forest around
was the perfect place to hunt deer and boar. A few decades later, the lodge
was re-constructed and enlarged, the land of 37,000 acres was leveled and
prepared to house what is known as one of the most splendid architectural
ensemble in the world, namely, the Versailles Park and Palace. After Fouquet’s
arrest (see Vaux-le-Vicomte)
in 1661, Louis XIV appointed Le Notre in charge of the new park project
and sent the construction workers from Fouquet’s residence over to Versailles.
The Sun King’s wish was to have a royal residence in Versailles, similar
to what he had seen on his visit to Vaux-le-Vicomte. He also hired the
painter Le Brun and the architect Le Vau (later followed by Hardouin-Mansart).
Simultaneously, the city of Versailles was being constructed in order to
provide lodging for the thousands of workers employed in the Versailles
project. In 1682, Louis XIV had his dream come true – the result was much
more innovative and impressive than he had ever witnessed.
Versailles Park can be reviewed as a composition with two main constituents,
exhibiting different structures: the Small Park, located between the Palace
and the Grand Canal, and the Large Park, a huge forest with alleys which
intersect and form various park motifs. We will concentrate on the former
structure, as it contains almost all of the major elements of the park.
a close look at the Interactive map above. Let the shaded object, or the
Versailles Palace, be our starting point. Right in front of the chateau
is the Sand Stage – a long terrace, two stairs high from the ground, decorated
with two marvelous marble vases. The Sand Stage can best be seen from the
Hall of Mirrors, the largest room in Versailles, where also the historic
Treaty of Versailles (which ended World War I) was signed. Behind the Sand
Stage is located the Water Parterre, or Parterre d’Eau, which consists
of two rectangular basins enclosed by a low marble frame and decorated
with bronze statues of women (symbolizing the Seine, Dordogne and Garonne
rivers in France) and children. The water in the basin reflects the image
of the palace and this way, represents the connection between the chateau
and the gardens. The Water Parterre is flanked by the North Flowerbed,
or Parterre du Nord, on one side and the South Flowerbed, or Parterre
du Midi, on the other. The North Flowerbed is actually a few stairs
lower than the level of the Water Parterre. Moreover, the location of the
elements in this part is based on a descending principle (one level down)
in order to have a better perspective when observed from the platform of
the Water Parterre. Briefly speaking, the Fountain of the Pyramid is a
level up than the Fountain of the Dragon and the Fountain of Neptune. It
is the same with the South Flowerbed: we have the flowerbeds, then 6 meters
down is the Orangerie, followed at a lower level by the Swiss lake. Moving
from the level of the Orangerie to the level of the Palace is made possible
by the Hundred Steps – two big flights of stairs.
let’s go back to the Water Parterre and look in a vertical line starting
from the Palace. Fer a cheval – stairs, having the shape of a hoof
– lead from the Water Parterre to another important park structure. This
is the Leto Basin, or Bassin de Latone, a fountain, which consists
of four marble steps arranged one on top of the other. Each step is decorated
at the edges with bronze frogs and lizards. Why such animals you may ask?
The legend says that Apollo got very angry with the citizens of Nike who
mocked at his mother Leto and turned them into frogs and lizards. The statue
of Leto, poured with water, stands on the very top of the fountain. Further
on is located the Central Parterre comprising two flowerbeds. Behind the
Leto Basin Area stretches a long grass carpet, the Tapis-Vert, lined on
both sides by alleys, with vases and statues placed at every 30 meters.
The Tapis-Vert reaches the Fountain of Apollo, or Bassin d’Apollon, one
of the most exquisite works of art in the French Classicism, which links
the Small Park and the cross-shaped Grand Canal. The sculpture presents
Apollo in a carriage drawn by four horses symbolizing the sunrise. To get
a better grasp of this part of the scheme, look at the photos on the right.
from the Versailles Palace but also a part of the park are the Grand and
Petit Trianons, small intimate castles built in 1687 and 1762-68 respectively.
The Grand Trianon received the name of the Marble Trianon because it was
decorated with columns and vases made of pink marble. During the reign
of Louis XVI, the larger park of the Petit Trianon was re-constructed in
an English-Chinese garden manner according to the fashion trends in park
building at that time.
Fountain of Neptune and
the Palace .
Fountain of Apollo, Tapis-Vert,
and the Palace .
Basin, Tapis-Vert, and the Grand Canal .
Fountain of the Pyramid
and the North Flowerbed .
Orangerie and the South
Fountain of Apollo, Tapis-Vert,
and the Palace .
Images supplied by FreeFoto.com
and bottom-right images borrowed from .
Ivanova's personal photo album .