The Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles

The Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles

The French Glitter:

Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles

The Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles is a French Masterpiece

As we parked our vehicle and walked around the corner, the beauty of Chateau de Versailles took us by surprise.

The high fence was glittering gold under the summer sun, the hints of more gold shining on the rooftop of the Palace.

The regal statue of Louis XIV on horseback spoke about the importance the French have for their Sun King.

As I learnt a little later, the Palace is not branded to be French, rather it tells us more about the Sun King, Louis XIV.

You’ll find hints of a Sun all across the architecture. Maybe the Sun sits on a clock’s dial telling you the time or imposes its importance from the designs that flank the Palace walls.

Louis XIV built the Palace of Versailles to impress. He wanted to stake his authority over France and show the world France’s superiority amongst its European counterparts.

The Background

Our guide told us a bit about the Sun King.

Louis XIV ascended the throne at 4. When he took over, France was not at its prime. The aristocracy was not under the King’s complete control. The noble lords imposed their own power over their lands.

Such fundamental problems would prove detrimental to France’s success in the global game of progress.

30km away from Paris, Louis XIV’s father Louis XIII had built a hunting lodge.

The Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles

The Sun King had an epiphany and decided to build this Hunting lodge into a Palace big enough to fit his entire court.

In a project spanning decades of construction, Louis XIV built Versailles Palace with all of the glories France had to offer.

Amidst 700 rooms, there is one that stands apart. This room was designed not just to impress but to state the King’s supreme power. We call this room the Hall of Mirrors.

Astonishing Dimensions

It is a surreal feeling walking across the Palace of Versailles and then you step into the Hall of Mirrors. That’s when you just forget to breathe.

It is difficult to admire the Hall of Mirrors without tourists around. This might be the only crowded room I absolutely didn’t want to leave.

The construction of this room began in 1678 and took 6 years to complete.

The French rightly named the Hall of Mirrors after the 357 mirrors that decorate the arcades. There are a total of 17 arches on either side of this elongated room. While one side overlooks the beautiful french gardens, the other side reflects the sunlight using mirrors.

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Palace of Versailles, France 🇫🇷 The Glass Room in the Palace of Versailles is perhaps the most famous room in this magnificent lavish Palace. It was here in 1918 that the treaty of Versailles, which put an end to the WW1, was signed. Walking across this large gallery is like walking arcoss a dream. The 357 mirrors, across 17 arches and the awe inspiring teardrop shaped chandeliers are a sight to behold. The Glass Room is one of the most lavishly decorated rooms in Versailles and that’s saying something, especially since the entire Palace is as opulent as a Palace can be. This room showcases Louis XIV’s first 18 years on the throne and the propserity that came with it. Previosuly there used to be a terrace here with access to the garden beyond. However this arrangement was rather awkward. When the Sun King’s favourite architect tookover, Hardouin-Mansart added in this Room of Glass.

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Each of these 17 arches have 21 mirrors. If you multiply this, the number is 357.

The magnificent chandeliers hanging from the equally detailed frescos just add in to the opulence.

The fresco above consists of 30 works painted by Charles Le Brun. The topic of these frescos is predominately the Sun King’s early years as King and his victories over Holland, Spain and Netherlands.

Gilded gold statues and works of art flank the arches and the brown wooden floor accentuates the golden hue.

Jean-Baptiste Colbert, one of Louis XIV’s trusted men, asked for a special design. This design is seen on the columns that form the arcades. The Rouge de Rance pilasters are topped with gilded bronze capitals. Above this is the fleur-de-lis. The Royal Sun held between two French roosters further accentuates the fleur-de-lis. Colbert called this the French Style.

The Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles
Jean Baptiste Colbert

This stunning play of incredible architecture, gold and French grandeur is spread across 73 metres. This room is 239.5 feet long and 34.4 feet wide with a total area of over 8072 square feet.

And every single inch of this room is like a dream.

The Hall of Mirrors has the War Room to its north and the Peace Room to its south, each glorifying France and Louis XIV.

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The Original Hall of Mirrors

If you were to see a map of the Versailles Palace, the Hall of Mirrors connects the King’s Quarters in the North with the Queen’s Quarters in the south.

Previously, the architect Louis Le Vau had constructed a balcony that would connect the two quarters.

This balcony would have been an ideal spot for the King and his Queen to put their feet up and enjoy the gardens beyond.

Louis XIV though didn’t like the placement of the balcony. He thought it was rather awkward to have a balcony connecting the two quarters. Not to mention, a balcony was easily exposed to bad weather.

The Sun King then put this favourite architect, Jules Hardouin-Mansart, to work. The result was this flamboyant Hall of Mirrors.

The Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles
Jules Hardouin-Mansart

The Importance of Building the Hall of Mirrors

Louis XIV built the Hall of Mirrors with the sole purpose to state his power and the progress France had made. Like most world leaders today, Louis XIV had ordered his architect to include only those items that were made in France.

He wanted to tell the world France’s ability to decorate and create the most palatial of rooms without any foreign assistance.

Louis XIV might have himself used the Hall of Mirrors on a daily basis to attend Mass. Courtiers would also use the Hall of Mirrors to pass messages to the King and admire the Royal Family.

What’s so grand about 300 odd mirrors? 

In the 16th century, mirrors were rare and almost a patent of Venetian artists. The artists in Venice knew exactly how to craft mirrors and they were the only ones in this trade.

The French managed to turn the Venetian artists and encouraged them to travel to France and create mirrors for the new Palace.

I think the Venetian government gave these treacherous artists a death penalty! However I’m not sure what happened of the death penalty in reality.

These 357 mirrors were one of the most luxurious decor pieces money could buy.

And these mirrors and the entire room was put to good use not just by the Sun King but also by his successors.

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Significant Events at the Hall of Mirrors

The French Monarchy used this Power Room, as I like to call it, to welcome official dignitaries, throw lavish parties and hold royal weddings.

A record of one such incidence narrates how these meetings went about. In 1685, the Doge of Genoa and the ambassadors of Siam, Persia and the Ottoman Empire had to walk across 73 metres to reach the King. The King sat on a throne at the end near the Peace room while the French court which sat in the Hall of Mirrors scrutinised the dignitaries.

After the long and historic reign of the Sun King, the Hall of Mirrors has seen more history unfold within its walls.

The wedding celebrations of the Sun King’s grandson Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette took place here.

Many other treaties were also signed in the Hall of Mirrors. However the most famous treaty signed here was the Treaty of Versailles. The Treaty of Versailles is famous all across the world as the treaty that brought the First World War to an end.

The Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles
Dignitaries gather to sign the Treaty of Versailles in the Hall of Mirrors

In Recent Years

About 10 years ago, the Hall of Mirrors was partly closed for visitors owing to a major restoration project. It was the first time such a project was undertaken to completely restore the Hall of Mirrors.

The best of the best were called to work on this masterpiece.

The restoration also shed light on the slight changes the Hall of Mirrors has gone through across the centuries.

What amused me the most was the lettering done by two young women who were a little too thrilled to bear witness to the beauty of Versailles. Two of the original mirrors bear the lettering ‘René’ and ’Emma 1842’.

If you visit the Hall of Mirrors make sure you search for these two mirrors. I didn’t know about this when I visited but I’d love to see a picture.

The restoration work also provided inputs about the frescos, and other architectural details. You’ll be surprised to hear: 60% of the original mirrors still survive.

It is impossible to imagine the depth of creativity and imagination these artists harboured to create a magnificent room like the Hall of Mirrors.

This room didn’t just impress people from the 17th century but every generation that has followed since including the millions of visitors who flock to Versailles each year.

Have you been to the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles? Comment below if you have or you’d like to visit.

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Palace of Versailles 🇫🇷 Right outside the shiny golden gates of the Versailles Palace stands this statue depicting Louis XIV, one of France’s stellar Kings. He is known in history as Louis the Great or more popular- the Sun King. In his 72 years as King, Louis XIV reformed France and its political system. He changed the way people looked at style and dresses, he dabbled into literature, art and undertook several war campaigns. The Sun King built Versailles, a former hunting lodge, for his entire court. He would have ceremonies every single day with ministers vying to be invited to see the King wake up and go to bed. It is kind of strange but I worked! The power of the monarchy was restored along with the loyalty of the nobility.

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