Palace of Versailles Hall of Mirrors – history, usage, controversy and treaties

Hall of Mirrors Palace of Versailles

The Hall of Mirrors is the most popular room in Palace of Versailles.

The French also call it Grande Galerie or Galerie des Glaces.

More than 10 Million tourists visit Palace of Versailles every year, and each of them makes it a point to witness this artistic marvel called Hall of Mirrors.

What is Hall of Mirrors?

Hall of Mirrors in Palace of Versailles is a massive and highly decorated room made up of lots of mirrors. It was the most used room in the Palace of Versailles during the times of the Kings and today it is the most visited.

History of Hall of Mirrors

Interestingly, the Hall of Mirrors wasn’t there in the first plan for the Palace.

Midway through, King Louis XIV got the brainwave to build Hall of Mirrors.

In 1678, it was decided to combine a few rooms of the Kings and the Queen’s apartments and the large terrace in the front of the Palace and create one large room.

Architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart’s design for the Hall of Mirrors was accepted immediately and work began the same year.

In six years’ time, the Hall of Mirrors – perhaps the most beautiful room in the World – was ready for use. Check out photos of important rooms in Versailles Palace.

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Construction of Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors is grandeur at its best.

For something that was built at the end of the 17th century – that’s almost 350 years before – it is completely revolutionary.

The feature of the room, which gives it its name are the seventeen mirror-clad arches that reflect the seventeen arcaded windows overlooking the Versailles gardens.

Each of the seventeen arches contains twenty-one mirrors, totaling it to 357 mirrors.

So, if your question is, ‘How many mirrors are used in Hall of Mirrors?’ the answer is 357.

Hall of Mirrors was intentionally built long and wide – it is 240 feet (76 meters) long and 34 feet (10.4 meters) wide.

It has a 40-feet (12.2 meters) high ceiling decorated with colorful paintings.

Charles Le Brun, a noted French artist of the period, painted 30 compositions on the vaulted ceiling depicting the glorious history of Louis XIV and France. Check out the history of Palace of Versailles.

While the construction of the Hall of Mirrors may have stopped, its restoration hasn’t.

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Why was Hall of Mirrors built?

King Louis XIV had two reasons for building the Hall of Mirrors at Palace of Versailles.

King Louis XIV didn’t like the terrace

The King thought the large terrace right on top of the Palace of Versailles entrance looked awkward. Besides, it was exposed to bad weather.

King Louis XIV wanted a ‘power’ room

At the same time, he thought he needed a room which proved to the rest of the World the artistic, political and financial superiority of France.

Experts believe the King and his architect decided to depict the political superiority with the help of the numerous paintings about his exploits on the ceiling.

The financial superiority was established by using 357 mirrors – for back then they were one of the best luxuries money could buy.

The artistic superiority was established by the sculptures, furniture and other works of art which decorated the Hall of Mirrors.

What was the Hall of Mirror used for?

After it was constructed, the Hall of Mirror at Palace of Versailles was used for various purposes.

It served as a waiting and meeting room for courtiers and visitors daily. This was also the room where they could catch a glimpse of the King as he walked past.

The courtiers and visitors with no direct access to the King could drop in a word or pass on a note to him in the Hall of Mirrors.

The Hall of Mirrors was also used for ceremonies, which required some extravaganza. For instance, Royal weddings, ceremonial balls, diplomatic receptions etc.

Controversy about Hall of Mirrors

During the construction of Hall of Mirrors King Louis XIV stuck to his condition “every material used should be made in France.”

This posed a problem for Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the architect of Hall of Mirrors.

His design for the House of Mirror needed a lot of mirrors and back then Venice had a monopoly on mirrors.

As a workaround, the French managed to convince a few Venetian artisans to defect to France.

These artists built what we know today as the Hall of Mirrors.

To keep the art of mirror making a secret, the Venetian government ordered the assassination of the artisans who had helped the French.

There is no documented proof that the assassinations were a success, but there is no proof that they didn’t succeed either.

Therefore, sometimes the Hall of Mirrors is also referred to as the ‘Hall of Bloody Mirrors.’ More such Palace of Versailles facts

Treaties signed in Hall of Mirrors

It is fair to say that the Hall of Mirrors has helped end a lot of wars by being the place where the treaty would be signed.

For instance, in 1783 Britain and USA signed the Treaty of Paris.

This treaty was responsible for ending the Revolutionary War. Under the terms of the treaty, Britain recognized the United States of America as an independent country.

A little less than a century later – in 1871 – France was humiliated in the Franco-Prussia war.

As France accepted its defeat at Palace of Versailles, Kaiser Wilhelm I was hailed as the Emperor of Germany in Hall of Mirrors.

Almost 50 years later, another treaty was signed in Hall of Mirrors called the ‘Treaty of Versailles.’

Signed on 28 June 1919, it ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers and signaled the end of World War 1.

Interestingly, after the Allied forces defeated Germany, French Prime Minister Clemenceau had chosen the Hall of Mirrors as the location to sign the Treaty of Versailles.

He was seeking poetic justice and taking for revenge for France’s surrender to Germany at the same location in 1871!


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Recommended Reading
1. Gardens of Palace of Versailles
2. Palace of Versailles history
3. Palace of Versailles facts

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She loves traveling in groups - of friends and relatives. The destination doesn't matter much as long she has her fun group around. She loves to try the local cuisine and clothes and also builds friendships wherever she goes. Favorite Cities: Istanbul, Hanoi, Cape Town, Singapore