Château de Versailles, on the UNESCO World Heritage List for over 30 years,
is one of the most beautiful achievements of 18th century French art.
Started as a hunting lodge and gentleman's chateau, the young Sun King Louis XIV took over and transformed the palace into the most splendid building and court of its time, hosting many famous and infamous people including Madame Pompadour and Marie Antoinette.The opulent staterooms, the famous Hall of Mirrors where several treaties were signed, and the royal apartments are quite breathtaking. The château lost its standing as the official seat of power in 1789 but acquired a new role in the 19th century as The Museum of the History of France.
I know many of you who have traveled to, even lived in France, have visited Versailles. For some reason, most likely time restraints during Paris visits, I didn't visit until last October, when we were on the river cruise with friends from California and England. Although it's always exciting to see these amazing historic buildings, oohing and aahing over the opulent furnishings all whilst shielding ones eyes from the brilliance of the crystal chandeliers and gold reliefs, I was really on another mission here - looking for less ostentatious red and pink marble!
Follow along as I take you on a quick visit and show you what is just a smidgen of the most famous French château ~~~~~~~~
The Hall of Mirrors
Above and below - lovely somewhat distorted views through wavy glass windows.
Why my interest in particularly the red and pink marbles used at Versailles?
Quarrying of many of these marbles happened around the medieval village of Caunes-Minervois where my brother has lived for many years. Located in the Languedoc region, this was Cathar Country and is full of amazing history. It is known that quarrying there has been ongoing since the 17th century, and there is a possibility that small quarries were even exploited in Roman times as red marble capitals and other details are evident in Languedoc churches dating from the 8th century.
The marble quarry brought prosperity to Caunes especially as outcrops held workable volumes of marble, some over 15M (about 50') in height. The Carrière du Roy (King's Mine) is named for it's most prestigious client, Louis XIV, and he obviously had a lot of the marble brought to Versailles.
When I first visited the site of the quarry closest to Caunes some years back it had closed, however one close to the Carrière du Roy is now operational, as well as a second one a couple of miles away. The marble blocks are now taken to Italy for finishing and then shipped around the world.
Model of the Palace of Versailles. It stands approximately 10 miles southwest of Paris.
The day of our visit was cool and sunny - perfect for a walk through the gardens.
Photo of us (left) with our California friends Kim and Rob, taken by Paula.
I must say I was thrilled to visit Versailles at long last during our trip in October.