The palace of Versailles was the principal residence and seat of power of French monarchs from Louis XIV to Louis XVI. Built and embellished by several generations of architects, sculptors, painters, decorators and landscape gardeners, it became the model of a royal residence in Europe for more than a century.
In 1661, Louis XIV appointed two architects, Louis le Vau and Jules Hardouin-Mansart, to transform and enlarge Louis XIII’s small château. Work continued up to his death in 1715, and new apartments were created during the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI.
The gardens of Versailles were designed by André Le Nôtre in 1661; with their parterres, groves, statues and ornamental lakes, they epitomize the formal French garden. They were modified and completed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart (the ornamental lakes of Latone and Les Saisons, the groves of the Obélisque, the Colonnade, the Dômes, etc.).
Criterion (i): The palace and park of Versailles as a whole constitute a unique artistic work, both for its size and its quality and originality. The architectural lay-out and the majestic composition of the landscape combine to create a setting for the magnificence of the interior décor of the apartments.
Criterion (ii): The palace of Versailles had enormous political and cultural influence throughout Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. It influenced Wren in the construction of Hampton Court, and Schlüter when designing the facades of the Royal Palace in Berlin. Little Versailles sprang up everywhere: in Nymphenbourg, Schleissheim, Carlsruhe, Würtzbourg, Stockholm, Potsdam, etc. There are countless gardens designed by Le Nôtre himself or by his imitators: at Windsor, Kassel, and la Granja, in Sweden, Denmark, Russia, etc.
Criterion (vi): The seat and setting of the absolute power of the monarchy, Versailles was the cornerstone of court life for a century and a half (it was there that Louis XIV perfected the art of “étiquette”) and of artistic creation in the fields of music, theatre and the decorative arts. Many scientific discoveries were presented there, encouraged by the kings who founded the royal academies. Finally, it was at Versailles on 6th October 1789 that the people of Paris came to take Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.