Before Satellites, A French King Constructed Painstaking Miniatures Of Cities To Plan Wars

King Louis XIV of France, known as the Sun King, is perhaps most well-known today for his expansion of the Palace of Versailles — yet he was involved in another, more strategic project, which involved crafting tons of miniature 3-D cities.

The Sun King fought numerous wars in his 72 years on the throne (1643-1715), from the Franco-Dutch War to the War of Spanish Succession, and found that something imperative to success was having knowledge of the terrain before attacking. He ordered experts to create 3-D miniatures of French villages and fortifications. These miniatures, called plans en reliefs by the French, gave detailed aerial views of Louis XIV's kingdom, allowing the king to direct sieges, plan fortifications, and have a better understanding of developing projects. These French building miniatures were a huge technological achievement for their day, and essentially provided satellite imagery centuries before such a thing was possible. Louis XIV's miniatures compose an impressive collection, which is now housed in the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris, where the king himself transferred them.