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History of the Château 

From the earliest of times, high walls, to deter invaders, often surrounded ancient cities.  Within these walls was
a strongly built fortification, called the citadel that was perched upon the highest land within the walls. 

Wherever the Romans established themselves they continued the custom of fortifying their cities.  This was done by building a wall around the city, and an inter citadel, for protection from their enemies.  Following the decline of Rome, about the middle of the forth-century AD, the feudal lords built simple wooden fortified living places at the top of a hill or upon an artificial mound called a motte.  Ideally, the structures were built were they could command a view of the countryside.  Up to the 6th century, the fortifications surrounded communities where most of the area's population lived. 

The original French castles had been constructed on open plains or rolling hills.  Gradually, however, their builders began to strategically place them for defense.  When fortified places where not advantageously placed on an island in a river as the famous 12th-century Château Gaillard, built by Richard the Lion-Heart on the Andelys cliff overlooking the Seine River in Normandy [now in ruins about 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Paris], or in another body of water [such as le Mont-St-Michel in Normandy], they were surrounded by a ditch.  Eventually, the ditches were filled with water to become moats. 

By the middle of the 6th century, the Byzantine Empire began to build strong defensive fortifications for the primary purpose of housing its armies.  These castle-like structures remained, for the next couple of centuries, almost exclusively Byzantine.  Islamic warriors, sweeping out of Arabia to conquer Byzantine, the Middle East and North Africa, appropriated the castle concept.

In Europe, during this period, a wooden stockade was erected, around the motte, upon which were built the fortification’s structures.  By the late 9th-century, the wooden wall was being replaced by a thick stonewall.  The use of a single stonewall oftentimes gave way to a series of raised masonry walls that gradually became thicker and which were topped with wide crenellated parapets.  The open areas, within these walls, became known as the bailey [courtyard].  By the 11th-century, the motte-and-bailey castle [from the Latin word castellum, meaning a ‘small fortified place’] configuration had become dominant. 

During the Middle Ages [the 5th-century through the 14th century], when Europe was divided into many small states and conflicts were common, castles began to play a central role in the feudal, political and military system.  Under this system, the kings granted land to the nobles in return for military and other services to be rendered by the nobles.  The kingpin of this system was the castle that helped the king or noble defend his lands.  The castle served as home, barracks, armory, storehouse, prison, treasury and administrative center. 

However -- throughout the Middle Ages in Europe -- until the 12th-century, the fortification’s main building materials remained earth and timber.  In the latter 9th century, the returning lords and kings of the first Crusades, having seen the Alhambras of the east, started to phase in the building of stone castles to bolster their consolidation of power.  The first of these were probably built in France.  By the latter middle Ages, castles were found dotting the shores of the Rhine, from Mainz to Cologne, and on the plains of Spain.

As siege warfare became more sophisticated, the castle builders built increasingly stronger defensive bastions.  The stone castle’s walls could be up to 33 feet (10 meters) thick.  In most cases, round towers stood at the corners and along the lengths of the walls.  Guards walked along the tops of the walls and towers, where they were protected by defensive structures called battlements.  The battlements consisted of stone uprights known as merlons and open spaces called crenels.  The merlons shielded the guards from enemy missiles.  Through the crenels, the guards could shoot arrows or drop rocks on attackers.   

The motte was usually built up from earth that had been excavated from the building of the moat; a palisade usually topped it.  An enemy attacking the castle had to break through the defenses of one or more baileys before he could reach the motte’s defenses. 

The Normans fashioned the next step in castle development.  This was the addition of a towering masonry keep [donjon] within the bailey.  The keep often rose some 40 to 50 feet [12 – 15 meters] and had small windows set into thick walls.  Concurrently, the moats became wider and were traversed by a drawbridge that was raised and lowered from within the fortification’s walls.   

Many stone castles were entered through a structure called a gatehouse.  Typically, the gatehouse consisted of two large towers -- one on each side of the entrance -- and one or more rooms above the entrance.  The Normans also added a portcullis to the castle’s wall, at the end of the drawbridge.  This was a thick, iron plated wooden door that could be lowered to guard the entryway.  From the gatehouse interior, people could open and close huge doors that stood at the entrance.  They could also raise and lower one or more of the portcullises.  The drawbridge could also be operated from inside the gatehouse. 

Subsequently, the Norman donjon [keep or tower] became round [easier to defend than the rectangular keep] and was expanded to contain apartments, a water well and storage areas. 

In the 12th and 13th-centuries, when the Crusaders were again returning from the Holy land, they brought memories of the imposing Islamic stone fortifications with them.  These helped to transform their castles.  The castle apartments were transferred to more robust buildings that were built within additional bailey battlements.  They became the castle’s final line of defense.   

With the advent of canons, in the 15th-century, the fortified castle [château fort] began to give way to the French type château ‘country house’ or ‘royal residence’ [châteaux de plaisance].  Examples of the châteaux de plaisance are Amboise [15th-century], Azay-le Rideau [1518 - 1527], Blois [13th-century], Chambord [1519 - 1547], and Chenonceaux [1515 - 1523].  This transition was in no small part due to Charles VIII’s 1494 invasion of Italy to capture the kingdom of Naples.  In his march toward Naples his canon bombarded and destroyed numerous castles.  So thorough was the destruction that the kings and nobility, of Western Europe, came to see the castle’s Achilles’ heel.  Fortified castle building all but ceased. 

In English, the terms castle and palace, do not have the same meaning, even though they have been loosely employed interchangeably; castles are fortifications while a palace is the residence for the nobility and for kings.  On the other hand, the French word ‘château’ [châteaux is the plural] is multifaceted.  Over the years it has added new meanings while maintaining the old ones. 

At first, château ment a fortress [château fort].  It was totally equivalent to the English word ‘castle’.  During the Renaissance, it took on the additional meanings of ‘royal palace’ and ‘mansion’ or ‘stately home’.   As early as the 15th century the castle architects were designing imposing residential tower houses within the castles, which were outfitted for elegant living.  Examples of such edifices are found at Tattershall, in England and at the imposing Château Vincennes near Paris.

The château de Chambord [begun in 1519] reflects the castle’s transition from fortress to residence.  Fontainebleau, with its horseshoe-shaped staircase that dominates its entrance and Chenonceaux, which spans the Cher River, and idyllic Azay-le-Rideau, are further illustrations of this change in the meaning of the word ‘château’.  The structures themselves still retained many of the characteristics of the castle, with steep Mansard roofs and round corner towers.  Yet, an attacking enemy would find their large windows inviting.  

By the time the château de Versailles was being built [begun by Louis XIV in 1661], the château no longer resembled the medieval castle.  Château roofs had become lower and the structures were more rectangular.  The need for fortified châteaux had virtually vanished.  In their place, elegant palaces [the word is derived from Palatine Hill in Rome] and mansions appeared, having extensive formal gardens.   

Today, the word château can also refer to a wine producing estate [such as ‘Château Lafitte-Rothschild’].  The peaceful, wooded French Loire Valley, which runs through the regions of Centre and Pays de la Loire in central France, is known as the Châteaux de la Loire because of its many historic châteaux.  In France, the so-called ‘house of cards’ is known as a ‘Château de carts’ and a French water tower has become a ‘Château d’eau’ [a water castle]. 


The Loire Valley and the Châteaux de la Loire

View all the top Loire Valley Tours & Packages for the Loire Valley

The Loire Valley traverses two French regions: Centre [Region 6] and Pays-de-la Loire [Western Loire, Region 18].  The Region of Centre [Centre-Val-de-Loire] is so named for its central location in France.  It is comprised of the départements of Cher, Eure-et-Loir Indre, Indre-et-Loire, Loir-et-Cher and LoiretTo Centre's west is the Region of the Pays-de-la-Loire; it consists of the départements of Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire, Mayenne, Sarthe and Vendee.  

The Loire Valley is also known as the Châteaux de la Loire [the Castles of the Loire].  Its' fairytale castles are rich in the renaissance architecture that was in vogue during the period that saw the castles renovated and expanded.   The renaissance also influenced the magnificent courtly gardens that abound in the area.  The Loire Valley entered its renaissance period in the 16th century.  As elsewhere in Europe, the period brought with it new, artistic ideas in architecture.

Because of its beautiful and game rich forests, the kings and nobility made this area the preferred habitat for their castles.  Their fairytale castles were nestled in the forests surrounded by their splendid garden type settings that bordered the winding Loire river and her tributaries, the Cher, Indrois and Indre.
The history, the grandeur and the beauty, of these architectural wonders is beyond anything that one can imagine.  A visit to a château or two, will leave you awe stricken, actually feeling as though you are a part of the history that occurred there.

A trip to the Loire Valley is an absolute must.  It is quickly accessible, from any part of France, by train, bus or car.  The trains in France are wonderfully comfortable and fast.

Only twenty-five percent of the Châteaux de la Loire remain intact, and of these, Amboise is quite extraordinary.

The 15th-century château de Amboise [photos] is located on the Promontoire des Chatelliers that overlooks the town of Amboise in the region of Centre, département of Indre-et Loire.  Amboise is to the west of Tours, on the south bank of the Loire River.  This is a grand fortress perched on a cliff overlooking the Loire River on one side and the arched gateway and cobble stone streets of the village on its other side.  This same site has been fortified since the Celtic tribe, the Turones, inhabited the area of the future Touraine. 

As early as 503 Clovis, King of the Francs, and Alaric, King of the Visigoths, met here.  From before the Dark Ages through the Middle Ages, wooden and stone fortifications were in place on this rocky spur.  In 1214, Philippe-Auguste, King of France, took control of the area, making the Amboise-Chaumont family his vassals.

Amboise was originally known for its many festive gatherings and happenings.  In 1516, Leonardo da Vinci traveled to Amboise in the service of François I.  He lived the last years of his life there, at the Château de Cloux, where he died in 1519.  The Amboise Conspiracy in 1560, and the Wars of Religion, diminished the festive association with the château.  These were sinister times for the château, due to the slaughter of hundreds of Protestants that took place there.  Today, Amboise is a site that is used for the many festive-like events that act as a beacon for tourists.

It was through Amboise that the Italian style of architecture was introduced into the Loire Valley.  Charles VIII devoted most of his efforts to transforming the mediaeval fortress into a sumptuous gothic palace for himself and Anne of Brittany.  Its St. Hubert chapel houses the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci.

The massive early 13th-century Château d'Angers [photos], is not really beautiful, when compared to Chenonceau, but it is impressive.  It is located in the beautiful town of Angers which is in the region of Western Loire [Pays de la Loire], département of Maine-et-Loire.  The town is the former capital of the historic province of Anjou, sitting on the banks of the River Maine. 

The château dates back to the first century BC.  It has known both Roman and Viking rule and has suffered vast physical ruin, together with the loss of much of its land holdings during those turbulent times terminating in the Religious Wars.  For the duration of the later epoch, the château suffered even more devastation than Amboise.  Continuing confrontations, between the Protestants and Catholics, were unrelenting.  In an effort to abate the turmoil, Henri IV, in 1598, promised the marriage of his son to the daughter of the Duc de Mercoeur [the leader of the Catholic Party]; the marriage contract was signed in April when the children were three and six years old! 

The construction of the Moorish looking Angers began in 1228 and was finished about ten years later. It was originally encircled by wide moats that have been converted into today’s gardens. Initially, the towers were one to two stories taller, but were ordered demolished by the King during the Wars of Religion. Instead, the castle’s governor merely had the towers reduced in height. The King died, during the first part of the demolition, which saved the château from being totally destroyed.  

If you are an admirer of fine tapestry, the famous ‘Apocalypse’ tapestry can be viewed here. In 1373, Charles V, the King of France, loaned a copy of the manuscript the Apocalypse to his brother, Louis I, the Duke of Anjou. The Duke was inspired by the tomb to commission tapestries to be made of the Apocalypse. The tapestry, which is 140 meters long, is housed in the 600-year-old building that was designed for it. This building is the oldest and largest, of the castle’s structures, to survive in such a grand state. The surviving tapestry itself contains over 76 scenes that depict the book of John (the last book of the New Testament), and the coming of a New Jerusalem.

Azay-le-Rideau [photos] is a smaller castle of exceptional architectural beauty, built on an island in the Indre River.  The château has robust turrets and luxurious furnished rooms.  It is also considered to be one of the most beautiful of the châteaux in the Valley. Named after one of it’s lords, Rideau d’Azay, it sits on the Indre river, in the region of Centre, département of Indre-et-Loire, about 15 miles [24 km] southwest of Tours.  This famous early Renaissance château is situated in a beautiful park in the ancient province of Touraine.  Balzac called it "A many-faceted diamond with the Indre as its setting".

Azay has its horrific past as well.  In 1418, while passing through Azay, a Burgundy guard insulted Charles the VII.  The King retaliated immediately by having the guard and 350 other soldiers executed.  He had the town taken over and burned; for the next 100 years, the town, which is a maze of narrow, twisting streets, was known as Azay-le-Brûlé ['Azay the Burnt']. 

Financier Filles Berthelot, and his wife Phillippa rebuilt the château, in the early 16th Century [1518 - 1529].  Phillippa oversaw the reconstruction of this lovely château, which is partially built upon pilings, allowing it to project out into the Indre River.  When the monarchy’s financier fell into disfavor with the King, he fled the country and died in exile.

François I confiscated Azay-le-Rideau and gave it to one of his companions in arms, Antoine Raffin.  It now houses a Renaissance furniture and art museum.


The château, which began as a feudal castle, is located in the city of Blois, the capital of the region of Centre, département of Loir-et-Cher. located in north-central France between Orléans and Tours.  The Loire River bisects the town.  In 1429, Joan of Arc set out from Blois to besiege Orléans.

The town of Blois, though of ancient origin, was first distinctly mentioned by Gregory of Tours in the 6th-century.  It did not become a powerful countship until the 9th-century.  The oldest parts of the château were built by the counts of Châtillon during the 13th-century. 

The history of the Château de Blois [photos] is interesting.  It seems that the Count of Blois married the daughter of William the Conqueror, and Stephen, their son, became the King of England, in 1135, while Blois was still in its prime.  It was not until 1498 that Louis XII became King of France, ruling his domain from the château, that Blois became a royal town and capital of the Kingdom.       

The château is one of the most prestigious Renaissance monuments in France.  It is a brilliant study of the progression of French architecture from the Middle Ages into the 17th-century.  Certainly some of the earliest applications of the early French Renaissance style were the additions that François I [1515 - 1547] made to the Château de Blois. 

The Château de Blois’s exterior is one of the most beautiful of all the châteaux in the region. The François I spiral staircase, with it open stonework tower, is a noted architectural masterpiece; Leonardo da Vinci, who died in 1519 at nearby Amboise, may have designed it.  In 1635 - 1638, Nicolas François Mansart, the Paris born architect, designed and built the Orléans wing of the château.

The Château de Chambord [photos] is located in the region of Centre, département of Loir-et-Cher, 9 miles [15 km] northeast of Blois on the Cosson River..  It is, of course, the most glorious of the châteaux de la Loire, built from 1519 to 1547.  King François I already owned Amboise, Blois and Chenonceaux Castles, but felt the need for a more elegant hunting lodge than the one that originally occupied the setting.  Thus the King acquired over 10,000 more acres to build this architectural jewel.

Chambord, which was constructed as a châteaux de plaisance in a style somewhere between fortified Gothic castle, Renaissance palace and fairyland stands in a park surrounded by a 22 mile [35 km] long wall.  Construction began in 1519 and was completed in 1547, boasting of 440 rooms, and just about as many fireplaces (that you could walk into), 13 great staircases and stables for 1200 horses.  It was constructed with its magnificent, Italian style double staircase that is believed to have been designed by Leonardo de Vinci.  A person going up or down one staircase would not meet another going the opposite direction on the other staircase.  The staircase was designed to allow the simultaneous up and down passage, of both soldiers and horses, in times of siege.

Chambord was quite an undertaking; the treasury was broke, and there was no money to pay the ransom demanded for the release of François’ two sons being held hostage in Spain.  But, the construction continued.  Only François’ imprisonment, after losing the battle of Pavia, halted the activity for about a year.

The King was so enthusiastic about his project that he wanted to change the course of the Loire River to run by Chambord.  But, even the King agreed that the cost was prohibitive.  Instead, he had the Cosson River redirected to flow past the castle.

The park, which is enclosed by a wall, has been a national hunting reserve since 1948.  The barrier is reportedly the longest in France. Chambord is an absolute must to visit. 
Tours to Chambord


The château de Chaumont [photos] was originally constructed by the counts of Blois, during the 10th century, as a fortress.  It then became the property of the Chaumont-Amboise family and was partially torn down on the orders of Louis XI in 1465.  It was rebuilt in 1510 by the family pursuant to their victories during the Italian wars.  By the 18th-century, the château had, in part, lost its military look, taking on a Renaissance air.  Upon the death of François I, Catherine de Médicis forced Diane de Poitiers, François' mistress, to exchange Chenonceaux for Chaumont-sur-Loire.

The château of Chenonceaux [photos], is located in the region of Centre, département of Indre-et-Loire, on the right [north] bank of the Cher River east of Tours.  It is a smaller and privately owned château, but is generally considered to be the most beautiful in the Loire Valley.  It represents a type of transitional architecture between Gothic and Renaissance.  Chenonceaux spans the Cher River in magnificent grandeur.

This is the Château that was designed, and added to, by several women.  It has come to be known as ‘The Castle Designed, Built, and Added To by the Women of Chenonceaux’.  The several women, during the course of some 400 years, were:  Catherine Briconnet, Diane de Potiers, and Catherine de Medici, among others.

Chenonceaux however had quite a racy history!  Thomas Bohier, a finance minister of Normandy, originally built the château in 1521.  He was a tax collector under Charles VII, Louis XII and François I.  Bohier had originally bought the Chenenceau estate that consisted of a manor and mill.  Out of a property dispute, with an heiress to Chenonceaux, Bohier finally acquired all the adjoining fiefs.  Bohier then raised the old buildings with the exception of the manor.  Since he could not personally supervise the construction of his new château, due to his duties with the army near Milan, his wife Catherine Briconnet, took charge and creatively designed and oversaw the château’s construction.

The Bohiers only enjoyed the château a few years before their deaths.  Their son, Antoine, ceded the château to François I in payment of his father’s large debt to the Treasury.  François I used it as a hunting lodge.
François I bequeathed Chenonceaux to his successor, Henri II, who in turn gave it to his mistress Diane de Poitiers (his senior by some 20 years).  Diane turned Chenonceaux into a profitable estate through development of its agriculture, the sale of its wine and its tax income.  Diane also had the bridge constructed that spans the Cher, and generally enlarged the château.  When Henri II was killed in a tournament, in 1599, his wife Catherine de Medici, forced Diane to exchange Chenonceaux for Chaumont.  Catherine then added the two-story bridge gallery, where magnificent galas were held, and a park that she created because of her love for the arts.
The saga of the women of Chenonceaux continued on; check your history books for more
details!  The château is now the property of the French Nation.
This is considered the most favorite of the Loire Chateaux, you can visit this beautful castle on one of our
tours to Chenonceaux.


Cheverny [photos] is located in a clearing in the Sologne Forest in the region of Centre, département of Loire-et-Cher.  Its design is supposedly a to be a reproduction of a Luxembourg Castle in the true French style favored by both Henri IV and Louis XIII.

Cheverny’s construction, by Count Hurault de Cheverny, began in 1604 and was completed in 1634.  The château, and its beautiful furnishings, is still owned by Count Hurault’s descendents. 
Tours to Cheverny

A 15th-century château built near the Indre River near its joining with the Loire River.  It is said to be the 'Sleeping Beauty Castle'.

The Château de Villandry [photos] is located along the Cher River, southwest of Tours, in the region of Centre, département of Indre-et-Loire.  It was built in 1532 by Jean Le Breton, secretary of state for François I, and was known as a beautiful Renaissance Château (only the keep remains).  It is renowned for its marvelous gardens, which were restored in the 20th century, and are considered to be one of the most highly acclaimed in France.  Even the potager [vegetable garden] is laid out in a formal, decorative manner.  Be sure to make Villandry one of your stops!

The Châteaux of Île-de-France


The château de Chantilly is located in the ancient town of Chantilly, Oise département, Picardie region, some 23 miles [37 km] north of Paris.  The town derives it name from a Gallo-Roman, by the name of Cantilius, who built the first villa there.  It was once noted for Chantilly lace; today, it is principally noted for the château, as a resort, for horse breeding and for its famous racetrack.  The town of Chantilly was previously known for its porcelain and silk lace.

Le Nôtre, the designer of the world famous French gardens at Versailles and Fontainebleau, also designed Chantilly's garden.

The château was built in the 14th-century on a small rocky island in an artificial lake. In 1886, the château, together with the Musée Condé and the surrounding park, was left to the Institut de France by the Duc d'Aumale.

The town of Fontainebleau is located in north central France, in the Seine-et-Marne département, in the region of Île-de-France just southeast of Paris.  The town, which is situated near the Seine River, is best known for the château de Fontainebleau [photos], a Renaissance château surrounded by a large forest, landscaped grounds and huge formal gardens.

The château was originally built in the 13th-century, but was reconstructed and decorated, in the Renaissance style, by François I.  He assembled a large number of well-known Italian and French artists, at Fontainebleau [known as the School of Fontainebleau], to carry out the works.  Other French rulers also dispensed considerable wealth in further beautifying the château.  Among them were Henry IV [who doubled it size and improved the gardens], Louis XIII [who installed the great double staircase], Louis XIV [who employed André Le Nôtre to enhance the gardens], Napoleon I, Louis XVIII, Louis Philippe and Napoleon III.

The château's galleries of François I and Henri II illustrate the increasing elaboration of the French Renaissance style, as influenced by Italian design, with increasing elaboration of applied decoration and color.  By contrast, Marie-Antoinette's rooms exemplify a more sober style of straight lines, subdued coloring and simple ornamentation that is referred to as Neoclassicism.

During the French Revolution, 1789 - 1799, the château was ransacked.  It was restored by Napoleon who favored it over Versailles.  He had the King's bedroom converted into a Throne Room.  King Louis Philippe did additional interior restorations in the mid-1800s.

The history of Fontainebleau would not be complete without mentioning that it was the venues for the signing of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in 1685, and of Napoleon I's signing of his decree of abdication, in 1814.  During the Second World War, the Germans used the château as their headquarters.  After the war, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] used it until 1965.  It is now a public museum.

In 1564, Catherine de Médicis began construction of this royal palace along the Seine River in Paris, adjoining the Louvre.  74 acres [30 hectors], that were adjacent to the palace, were converted into gardens.  It was here that Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were held prior to their removal to prison and ultimately the guillotine.  It was virtually destroyed during the period of the Paris Commune in 1871.  However, the Jardin des Tuileries is still intact as a public park.

The château, which was designed in 1656 by the architect Louis Le Vau, is located near Melun, France, southeast of Paris.  It was designed for Nicolas Fouquet and was completed, in the French Baroque residential style in 1661.  André Le Nôtre, who formulated French neoclassicism, designed the château's French gardens.  These gardens, predicated upon highly formal arrangements, became the prototype of the gardens he would later design for Louis XIV at Versailles.  They were designed around canals, fountains, statues and ornamental urns.  Great expanses of clipped trees and geometric flower terraces, that seemed to stretch for miles, were used.

On August 17, 1661, Nicolas Fouquet, the French superintendent of finance, hosted a large party in honor of Louis XIV at his newly completed château of Vaux-le-Vicomté.  When the Sun King encountered the luxurious splendor of Vaux-le-Vicomté, he was outraged that one of his ministers could have more palatial digs than he.  He had Fouquet thrown into the local Bastille and then set about to hire those responsible for the design and building of this marvelous château to design and build an even bigger, more elaborate palace for him at Versailles.
Tours to Vaux-le-Vicomté

The Palace of Versailles, the largest palace in France, is one of France's national monuments.  It is the capital of Yvelines département, located about 13 miles [21 km] southwest of Paris.  It is part of the French national heritage and one of the most visited historic sites in Europe.

In 1624, Louis XIII had a hunting lodge built at Versailles.  The Sun King, Louis XIV, still smarting from the jolt he received at Fouquet's get-together, hired Louis Le Vau as architect, Charles Le Brun, the painter and decorator and André Le Nôtre, the landscape architect; all having become famous from the building of Vaux-le-Vicomté. 

Some 37,000 acres [15,000 hectares] of land were converted into tree-lined terraces and walks and thousands of flowering plants.  A Grand Canal was excavated some 1,737 yards [1,588m] long and 67 yards [61m] wide and 1,400 fountains and 400 pieces of new sculpture were constructed.  The old hunting lodge was renovated, giving it the appearance of a small palace.  The 1669 beginning of the palace was fairly humble.  In 1676, another architect, Jules Hardouin-Mansart enlarged upon Vau's plans, adding a second story, the magnificent 240 foot [73 m] Hall of Mirrors, with painted ceilings done by Le Brun and his assistants, and the North and south wings.  The Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I, was signed in the Hall of Mirrors.

Over the next century, more than 36,000 workers were employed on the project which, when completed, could accommodate up to 5,000 people.  Throughout the reign of Louis XV, the work that had begun by his predecessor was continued, making the palace a symbol of royal extravagances.  The first episodes of the French Revolution took place here.  In 1837, Louis-Philippe restored the palace, converting it into a museum consecrated to "all the glories of France".  Today, it is entirely surrounded by the city of Versailles, which did not come into being until the construction of the palace. 

The palace at Versailles became the envy of all of Europe's rulers; three of the most grandiose of the imitations are the Herrenchiemsee in Bavaria, the Schonbrunn in Vienna and the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.

In 1870, the German army used the palace as its headquarters during the siege of Paris. The next year, the German emperor was crowned there. Subsequently, the palace was used as the seat of the French Parliament until 1879. In 1875, the Third Republic's constitution was proclaimed there. It was at Versailles, that the presidents of both the Third and Fourth Republics were elected.


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