Weird History Before Satellite Imagery, This French King Constructed Painstakingly Intricate Miniatures Of Cities To Plan Wars  

Cleo Egnal
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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 3D 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 hired Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, an engineer responsible for fortifications, to create 3D 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 war miniatures compose an impressive collection, which is now housed in the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris, where the king himself transferred them.

Charleroi, 1696


Charleroi, 1696 is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Before Satellite Imagery, This French King Constructed Painstakingly Intricate Miniatures Of Cities To Plan Wars
Photo:  C. Carlet/via Fine Books Magazine/Fair Use

Briançon, City In The Cottian Alps, 1736


Briançon, City In The Cottian ... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Before Satellite Imagery, This French King Constructed Painstakingly Intricate Miniatures Of Cities To Plan Wars
Photo:  C. Carlet/via Fine Books Magazine/Fair Use

Fortress Neuf-Brisach, Alsace Region, 1706


Fortress Neuf-Brisach, Alsace ... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Before Satellite Imagery, This French King Constructed Painstakingly Intricate Miniatures Of Cities To Plan Wars
Photo:  C. Carlet/via Fine Books Magazine/Fair Use

Detailed Look At The Fortifications At Besanon


Detailed Look At The Fortifica... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Before Satellite Imagery, This French King Constructed Painstakingly Intricate Miniatures Of Cities To Plan Wars
Photo:  C. Carlet/via Fine Books Magazine/Fair Use