15 Absolutely Insane Facts About The Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles is known for its opulent rooms, extravagant gardens, and the integral role it played in the French Revolution. Every year, more than three million visitors tour the Palace that was built for the Sun King, Louis XIV, in 1623 CE. A few of the biggest draws at the Palace are the Hall of Mirrors, the Chappelle Royale, and the Salon de Venus. On the grounds are priceless works of art as well as period furniture and statues. And for outdoor lovers, there are numerous plants, flowers, fountains, and statues to view while perusing the lush gardens on the property. Like other opulent and historically significant structures (like the Taj Majal, for example), Versailles's architectural history is filled with interesting anecdotes, like the time all of its mirror makers were killed for doing their job too well.

There are many stories about the building of Versailles and the amount of money and work it took to create such an elaborate structure, which dates back to the 17th century and is located about 12 miles from Paris. You can imagine how much time and effort it took to create the massive Palace, which would become the envy of many foreign visitors from the 1600s up until today. In fact, the Palace became such a symbol of wealth and excess - though hygiene left something to be desired - that the people of France were disgusted by everything it represented, leading them to revolt. The excesses of Versailles, in part, drove the French Revolution.

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  • The Palace Of Versailles Cost Hundreds Of Billions To Build

    The Palace Of Versailles Cost Hundreds Of Billions To Build
    Photo: Public Domain / Pixabay

    After accounting for inflation, experts believe the Palace of Versailles cost between $200 and $300 billion to build in contemporary money – an almost unthinkable sum for the construction of a single (even palatial) residence. King Louis XIV spent about one third of the entire building budget just on fountains for the garden. Over 35,000 workers helped build the Palace in the Île-de-France region of France on the outskirts of Paris. The Palace has 700 rooms, 67 staircases, and 1,200 fireplaces, and it's spread out over 2,014 acres.

  • Marie Antoinette Had A Private Love Shack On The Premises

    Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI, built her own estate on the property called "The Petit Trianon," which she used as a personal retreat. It included a theater and a farm area that produced fresh vegetables. She also built a “temple of love” consisting of a dozen columns and a statue of cupid. But more interesting is that she had a private grotto, a secluded cave-like area overgrown with vegetation. It reportedly included a moss bed and two entrances. It’s unclear what she used the grotto for, but you can make your own educated guess. 

  • The Sun King Sailed Gondolas On Its Grand Canal

    The Sun King Sailed Gondolas On Its Grand Canal
    Photo: Public Domain / Pixabay

    On the west side of the gardens at Versailles, there's a Grand Canal, which is about one mile long and 203 feet wide. The body of water is so large, it was often used for naval demonstrations, and Louis XIV sailed boats, including gondolas, in it. The Grand Canal is the largest body of water on the grounds of Versailles. It and the two rectangular pools nearby contain more than 15 decorative water features.

  • The Gardens Were So Smelly They Made Visitors 'Ill'

    The Gardens Were So Smelly They Made Visitors 'Ill'
    Photo: Public Domain / Pixabay

    The Gardens of Versailles are some of the largest in the world and include 372 statues, 55 water features, 600 fountains, and over 20 miles of canals. Each year, 210,000 flowers and 200,000 trees are planted there for visitors to roam through and admire. Apparently, the smell of the gardens was very strong in the 17th century, and it overpowered guests at the Palace. Madame de Maintenon wrote in a letter dated Aug. 8, 1689: “The tuberoses drive us away from Trianon every evening. The excess of fragrance causes men and women to feel ill.”

  • The Craftsmen Who Built The Mirrors For The Hall Of Mirrors Faced A Penalty Of Death

    The Craftsmen Who Built The Mirrors For The Hall Of Mirrors Faced A Penalty Of Death
    Photo: Public Domain / Pixabay

    There are 357 mirrors in the Hall of Mirrors. When it was built, Venice had a monopoly on making mirrors, but France was not deterred by this fact and enticed Venetian mirror makers to make some specially for the Palace. The craftsmen were later ordered to be assassinated by the Italians for giving away their secrets (sources vary on whether they went through with this or if it was merely a threat). The room was originally lit with as many 20,000 candles, transforming it into a “corridor of light.” During World War I, the Treaty of Versailles was signed in the Hall in 1919. It ended the war between Germany and the Allied Powers.

  • The Palace Was Originally A Hunting Lodge

    The Palace Was Originally A Hunting Lodge
    Photo: Public Domain / Pixabay

    Louis XIII (1601-1643) originally bought the land where the Palace stands today because he loved hunting. Initially, he built a chateau there for an escape from the city – drawn by the area's richness in wild animals. Louis expanded the chateau and bought more land before his death. In the 1660s and 1670s, Louis XIV turned Versailles into a palace. He even moved the French government and its court there in 1682. When Versailles was completed, over 5,000 people, including servants, could be accommodated in its large living space.