Weird History

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

Cleo Egnal
1.2k views 11 items

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.

Charleroi, 1696 is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Before Satellites, A French King Constructed Painstaking Miniatures Of Cities To Plan Wars
Photo: Jmh2o/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0
Charleroi, 1696
Briançon, City In The Cottian ... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Before Satellites, A French King Constructed Painstaking Miniatures Of Cities To Plan Wars
Photo: Thesupermat/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0
Briançon, City In The Cottian Alps, 1736
Fortress Neuf-Brisach, Alsace ... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Before Satellites, A French King Constructed Painstaking Miniatures Of Cities To Plan Wars
Photo: Lomita/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0
Fortress Neuf-Brisach, Alsace Region, 1706
Detailed Look At The Fortifica... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Before Satellites, A French King Constructed Painstaking Miniatures Of Cities To Plan Wars
Photo: Thesupermat/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0
Detailed Look At The Fortifications At Besançon