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Palace of Versailles Gardens – history and facts

Palace of Versailles Gardens

Palace of Versailles gardens is one of the largest gardens ever created.

These French-style formal gardens cover 800 hectares (1976 acres) which include 300 hectares (741 acres) of forest and two ‘French’ gardens called ‘Petit Parc’ and the ‘Trianon.’

Work on the gardens started at the same time as the work on the Palace of Versailles and lasted for around 40 years.

When the Versailles Gardens were complete, they included 372 statues, 55 water features, 600 fountains, and over 32 KMs (20 Miles) of canals.

Over the years, the Gardens of Versailles have become a popular haunt for the locals, people from Paris and visiting tourists.

History of Versailles Gardens

While planning the Palace of Versailles, Louis XIV gave equal importance to the garden around it.

He handed over the task of landscaping and the garden around the Palace to French landscape architect called André Le Nôtre.

The landscape architect was also given the title Controller General of the King’s Garden.

When the work had begun, the ground around the Palace of Versailles was just meadows and forests.

This meant, double the work.

Le Nôtre began revamping the grounds of Versailles in 1662.

His design for the garden had an east-west axis forming a crucifix. He added two formal French gardens, close to the Palace.

Even though André Le Nôtre handled every aspect of the work on the gardens, the King himself reviewed every detail.

Creating the Garden of Versailles was a monumental task.

The Earth had to be dug up to level the ground, the design partitions had to be made, the fountains and canals had to be dug up and filled with water, the Orangery was to be built.

Appropriate trees had to be imported from different parts of France and re-settled in the Garden of Versailles.

No wonder, it took André Le Nôtre 40 years to give it the present-day look.

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Gardens of Versailles facts

Here are some interesting facts about the Versailles Gardens.

Andre Le Notre had trained at Les Tuileries garden

Le Notre wasn’t new to working with the Royalty. He had started his career working for Gaston of Orleans, Louis XIV’s uncle.

He was born into a family of gardeners, who had been working for the Kings for the last 100 years.

In fact, he had trained at the garden of Les Tuileries near Louvre Palace (which is now the Louvre Museum).

One-third of the budget was spent on fountains

Yes, that’s right. King Louis XIV had allocated one-third of the total budget of the Palace of Versailles to the fountains in the garden.

The Gardens of Versailles have 11 main fountains. These fountains are built around Roman and Greek mythology themes.

During your visit, don’t miss out on the four seasons fountains, Fight of the Animals fountain, Dragon fountain, Latona’s fountain, Apollo’s fountain etc.

Garden of Versailles has a 1-mile long canal

Versailles Gardens includes a large canal 1.6 Kms (1 Mile) long and 62 meters (203 feet) wide.

This Versailles canal took 11 years to complete – from 1668 to 1679.

This canal is so big that the Kings sailed small boats on this water body.

In winter the frozen canal was used for skating and sledding.

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Venice gifted two Gondolas to the French King

In 1674, the Republic of Venice gifted the King two gondolas and four gondoliers.

Apparently, Venice wanted the King to make full use of the long canal in the Palace of Versailles gardens.

The Italian gondoliers were housed in buildings at the end of the Canal.

That’s why this part of the Palace of Versailles was also referred to as ‘Little Venice’.

Versailles Garden has Europe’s largest Orangery

An Orangery is a place where orange trees go to survive the winter.

In the days of King Louis XIV – the King who built Versailles – it was good manners to gift the King one’s own orange trees.

Besides, the King had also obtained a lot of orange trees from Portugal, Spain, and Italy for his garden.

These orange trees were also accompanied by Lemon, Oleander, Palm, and Pomegranate trees.

These trees didn’t do well in winter and needed warmer conditions.

That’s why the King commissioned architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart to build an Orangery in the Palace gardens.

This Orangery is 150 meters long with a 13-meter-high vaulted ceiling. It has 4 to 5-meter walls to keep the cold out.

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Palace of Versailles Gardens stank so much that people fell ill

Along with the Palace of Versailles, even the gardens were open to the public. Anybody could walk in and enjoy the beauty of the gardens.

However, in the 17th century, the Palace of Versailles gardens had a very strong smell which overpowered the visitors.

Apparently, the combined smell of all the flowers and trees was so strong that the visitors fell ill.

Madame de Maintenon wrote in a letter dated Aug. 8, 1689: “The tuberoses drive us away from Trianon every evening. The excess of fragrance causes men and women to feel ill.”

Fountains still use the 300-year-old hydraulic systems

Palace of Versailles gardens has numerous fountains.

These fountains jet water high up into the air thus enthralling the public and the special guests who come to see the spectacle.

Even today, many of the fountains use the same hydraulic systems from over 300 years ago to enthrall the people who visit in droves.

King Louis XIV had his own fruit and vegetable garden

Louis XIV had a fruit and vegetable garden built for himself as part of the Versailles gardens.

He loved having fresh fruits and vegetables on his dining table daily, and that’s why had requested La Quintinie to create a separate garden.

The garden was called ‘Potager du Roi’ and is today open to tourists.

The King loved gardening and visited this vegetable garden often.

In fact, he would also bring along visiting dignitaries to show off his gardening exploits.

Harry Potter has a connection with Gardens of Versailles

Want to know what’s the connection between Harry Potter and the Gardens of Versailles?

It is Alan Rickman.

British actor Alan Rickman was talented wizard Snape in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

In 2014, he directed a well-received movie called ‘A Little Chaos‘ based in Versailles.

The movie was about two talented landscape artists who fall in love while building a garden in King Louis XIV’s Palace at Versailles.

Every 100 years Versailles Garden is replanted

The Versailles Garden is replanted once every 100 years to ensure the plants and trees stay in place and stick to the intended design.

Louis XVI became the King in May 1774 and replanted all the trees immediately after.

The next replanting was done by Napoleon Bonaparte when he was the Emperor of the French from 1852 to 1870.

In Dec 1999, a massive hurricane hit France and the Palace of Versailles gardens suffered serious damage. More than 10,000 of the 200,000 trees were affected.

The third replanting was initiated after this devastation.

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