National Geographic : 1925 Jan
THE PALACE OF VERSAILLES, ITS PARK AND THE TRIANONS BY FRANKLIN L. FISHER S THE tired and travel-worn visitor arrives at the gates of the Palace of Versailles and passes through under the gilded arms of France, he enters the Cour d'Honneur and sees fac ing him the great equestrian statue of Louis XIV, the roi soleil, that august monarch who occupied the throne of France for 72 years. Guarding the court in impressive gran deur are statues of distinguished states men and marshals, like giants of old, and even across the vast expanse of cob blestones stretching in every direction these honored of France appear of heroic size. At either side and in front rise the im pressive walls of "the architectural mas terpiece of the most brilliant era of a great nation," later transformed by King Louis Philippe (1833-37) into a museum "to all the glories of France." This is the first view of the palace as seen by the majority of travelers from other lands, who make of it a goal of artistic pilgrimage, a place of historic curiosity, or merely one of the sights of the country, depending upon the visitor and his cultural interests. The patrons of art come to see the creations of the architect Mansart, the murals and decorations of Le Brun, the portraits by Mignard, the sculptures of Coysevox, and the landscape gardening of Le Notre, whose design of the extensive park has been kept almost intact through out the vicissitudes of the passing years. For the students of history the shades of such personages as the "Great King" and his successors, who made this their home and seat of government until the Revolution-Moliere, Mesdames de Mon tespan, de Maintenon, de Pompadour, du Barry, and Queen Marie Antoinette-flit through the scene attired in the costumes of the romantic long ago. Before the eyes of those blessed with a bit of imagination the grand fetes, which characterized the royal life of the time and by their extravagance kindled the fires of revolution, are reenacted in all their magnificence. The intrigues of the court, so fre quently appearing in literature and upon the dramatic stage, are brought to mind and the frivolities of the pleasure-mad nobility are once more rehearsed. The concourse is again thronged with a ragged populace brandishing aloft crude weapons and shouting demands for food and for death to their King and "The Austrian." THE ENTRANCE AN ENDLESS OCEAN OF COBBLES To the casual tourist this grand en trance is a bit forbidding, and he perad venture views with the apprehension that comes to tired feet the seemingly endless ocean of cobbles under the glare of the sun. He feels in his pocket to make sure that there is at hand the necessary small change to meet the requirements of guides and to purchase the usual stock of postcards which he will laboriously indite to the envious folks at home. Bulging in his side pocket will be his red-backed guidebook, by which he will presently endeavor to follow the French English discourse of his mentor. Over his shoulder hangs his kodak, ready for the instant recording of yet another film with which he will later proudly prove these wonders in his native land. The Grande Chapelle, which attracts instant attention upon arrival within the gates, was designed by Mansart, who ob tained some of his ideas for it from the Sainte Chapelle in Paris. Louis XIV, having become devout in his later years, "determined to raise that monument of his piety." In the hundreds of rooms in the palace it is said that io,ooo persons could be housed, and although the facts of the cost of this magnificent creation can never be accurately known, it has been estimated at $1oo,ooo,ooo, which, considering the period and the methods employed by an absolute monarch, is tremendous, even in these eight-hour days.