Versailles (Part I): The Chateau of the Symbolic Master of the Universe

The palace of Louis XIV is highly symbolic and includes clues to understand the role of the King of France.

The palace of Louis XIV is highly symbolic and includes clues to understand the role of the King of France.

Close to the Coucil Room, a space for political decisions of the Royal State, the King's Bedroom occupies the centre of the palace as of 1701. In its ritual and symbolic perfection, the "Versailles system" is then fully constituted.  Louis XIV's Bedroom is, in a sense, the heart of the Kingdom. Both an altar and sanctuary of the monarchy, the royal space is separated from the rest of the room by a balustrade, like the altar in a church. It housed the daily cult of the King's two bodies: the physical king, object of the apparent devoutness of courtiers, particularly at meticulously ritualized rise and bedtime, but also the symbolic king who incarnated, in his person, the State Principle. It is in this place of public intimacy that Louis XIV liked to welcome ambassadors of the main European countries to let them appreciate the grandeur and majesty of his power.

The bed, exactly placed in the centre of the palace, was oriented towards the town of Versailles in the prolongation of the central axis. The new city, created by Louis XIV in 1671, was arranged around three large main avenues, a rarity for the time, that connected to the château entrance gates, facing the Prince's eyes. In the park, the King-Apollo loomed out of the fountains waters, like dominating nature. In the château, the King-Man, from the centre of his palace, commanded the whole society.

The Grand Chapel achieved and consecrated in 1710 is of course, dedicated to Saint-Louis, sacralizing king of the Monarchy. It is offset compared with the palace, organized around the Royal Bedroom. With its large white and gold nave, the chapel of the château expressed the new taste imposed at the end of Louis XIV's reign, and that will be developed in the private apartments of Louis XV and Louis XVI.  The impassive king attended the celebrations of the mass every morning. Most of the time, he was alone on the tribune at the same level with the Grand Apartment, whereas courtiers were massed in the nave. Nothing original though, at Aachen, Charlemagne also stood half way from the vault where the Christ, like in Versailles, is represented. The attendants were placed on the ground fllor. The political power appeared as an  intermediary between the terrestrial and celestial hierarchies. Placed, like in suspension between Earth and Heaven, the Most Christian King has to refer to God only. The arrangement of attendants during the offices brought back to the foundation itself of Divine Right absolutism. this image of an official monarchy, where the King , in perpetual representation would be the hub, like the château organized  around a bed, should, however, be moderated. Looking for a refuge, fro more intimate life, the King requested Mansart to built the Château of Marly, protected from the mob of Versailles, between 1679 and 1686. This palace has today disappeared. It offered more human dimensions and Louis XIV used to come here ten times a year. At the end of his life, in what he called "his hermitage", Louis XIV liked to listen to concerts by Couperin with a few close friends.

Versailles, palace and sanctuary of Louis XIV.

Image source : http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/06/Versailles-Chateau-Jardins.jpg

The King's Bedroom.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b0/Versailles%2C_chambre_du_roi.jpg

The chapel.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/80/Versailles_chapelle_royal_topview.jpeg

The château from the South-West.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/86/Versailles_Garden.jpg

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