Thursday, February 18, 2016

Le Château de Versailles and Red Marble. . . . . . . . . . .

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

Personally, when tramping through these immense palaces, I really enjoy looking at the more simple things such as doors, also windows, with well worn handles, hardware, their lock boxes and keyholes. Have the keys survived? Who now has them, could modern locksmiths make new ones to fit if they're missing?  Look at the exquisite little royal crown carved into the brass above the keyhole on the left. I wonder what the knob underneath the box is - another way to lock the door perhaps. Who actually turned these handles and entered these magnificent room in years gone by?

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.


  1. You captured it beautifully Mary. I really enjoyed my tour there in 2010. I love seeing it again through your eyes.

  2. The elegance of Versailles beautifully displayed. It is hard to realize the opulence of the place. I can't imagine living like that!

  3. Simply astonishing - and beautifully captured and presented, Mary. I'm in too minds when I see such opulence: part of me is mightily impressed, but the latent puritan is faintly disgusted too! I'd love visit, though - not been yet - and would particularly like to stand in the hall of mirrors. Wonderful post!

  4. Fabulous pictures Mary you have really captured the opulence and character of this wonderful palace in Versailles. It is years since I visited, and I really should make the effort to go again. Hopefully I will do it before my son finally decides to leave Paris otherwise I will have regrets.

  5. Although beautiful, opulent palaces like Versailles always make me feel a little bit dizzy. I cannot imagine spending my life amidst all that splendour. It doesn't look all that cosy.

  6. Dear Mary, Rosemary said it best. You really captured the essence of Versailles. I was so overwhelmed at its opulence that I didn't know where and what to concentrate on. There are certain places one must see, Versailles is one and the other is the Karnak Temple in Egypt. If you have seen both than you can count yourself as fortunate.

    1. Gina I haven't been to Egypt - and doubt I will now due to safety concerns! I must read up on the Karnak Temple though.
      Mary -

  7. Versailles captures the grandeur, opulence and sheer extravagance of the reign of Louis XIV.
    It is not surprising the French people revolted after he abandoned Paris for a life of splendour
    at Versailles!
    The political scene had become dreary in Paris with the ‘people’ in a rebellious mood.

    Like you I focused on the details, those elegant parquet floors, chandeliers and exquisite fabrics.
    My heart was pounding when I entered the Hall of Mirrors – how lovely it would be to visit ‘out of hours’ and not be part of the throng!

    I feel I must go back as I missed seeing Petite Trianon and your photos have stirred something in me – like Rosemary, I’m not quite finished with the Versailles experience yet. I see there are some great concerts there this year……

    WOW – those photos are magical Mary and I will be back to drool over these again!
    Shane x

  8. Oh that place is amazing. I shall never see it so I am very glad that you made it. It doesn't look like anyplace I'd enjoy living, though I would certainly be interested in walking through. I liked what you said about having to focus on the doors and windows, locks and latches. if the opulence was just too much.

    1. Vee, so many of those European - and Russian - palaces have been unbelievable! Thank the good Lord for my little simple cottage where the' livin' is easy' and the only bits of gold are my rings, lol!
      Mary -

  9. Wow, I LOVED that little virtual tour you took us on, Mary. While I have been to Versailles, I was only a school kid more interested in checking out the good looking French girls than the marble or worn down door knobs, key holes and so on! I must admit that like you, I so love those more unseen marvels of the passage of time and, yes, wondering about the people who lived there, etc.

    it's amazing really, that everything still looks so good overall. Amazing the republic didn't plunder it all for the people! History of the arts and its architecture though wonderfully still stands here in all its glory. WHAt an amzing trip that much have been. Fascinating account of the marble too, btw.

  10. Breathtaking pictures, Mary. I can't imagine seeing it in person. Another for the Bucket List! :)

    Jane xxx

  11. Mary, thank you for this visual experience. Such opulence. I have similar thoughts to Mike, impressive but at the same time disgustingly over the top. I have been to Paris briefly, but not to Versailles, and I think this visual tour will suffice. I am glad to have seen it through your eyes and camera. Thank you.
    Farm Gal in SW VA

    1. . . . . and you may recall my showing you the palaces in St. Petersburg - even more elaborate and full of unbelievable riches - no wonder there were revolutions!
      Mary -

  12. Gorgeous photos, Mary! I've been to Versailles three times and would love to go again. You and I take pictures of some of the same things - those worn door handles and intricate window latches. I ask myself the same questions - who walked through those doors - what were they thinking? Next time I go, I'd like to take a tour of the rooms behind the staterooms; the rooms where the people really lived.
    And I love walking down to Le Petit Trianon. It's small(ish) and charming and I can see why Marie Antoinette would have wanted to escape the formality of court to live there.
    As you've said, it's no wonder the people revolted.
    A lovely bit of memory. And an interesting bit of trivia about the red marble! A story in itself.

  13. I'm like you, I always look at the finer detail such as door handles and windows to imagine who has looked through and walked through these gorgeous places. I imagine what fashions they were wearing, their troubles and their happiness. Your photos are exquisite Mary, just stunning! xx

  14. Tried to leave comments yesterday, but they didn't work. How I loved visiting this place once again with you. Your photos are spectacular! I will never forget that one bust with the marble wrap. What a beautiful place.


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