The Palace of Versailles sparked controversy across France. King Louis XIV transformed the once hunting lodge of King Louis III to the national landmark it is today, though with alternative intentions. The Sun King, as King Louis XIV is generally referred as, created the Palace of Versailles not only for his self-glory of his immense wealth and power but also for self-righteousness. I would argue that the Palace of Versailles was not to glorify God in any sense. The grandness of the chateau in all parts, whether it is the Hall of Mirrors, the Royal Chapel, the king’s chambers, or even the gardens, it all exemplifies man’s power both over nature and creation. That is not to say that the palace is quite dishonoring but rather it is quite immaculate in an artistically sense.
The Hall of Mirrors for example, see below for a photograph, is an exaltation of man. The seventy-three meter long hallway demonstrates economic prosperity. The three hundred and fifty-seven mirrors decorated under the seventeen arches illustrate the luxuries of the king. Mirrors were seen as luxurious objects, and mirrors in art symbolize reflection; a viewing of one’s self and body alone, or as I refer to it as self-lust. The Hall of Mirrors, to me, represents self-righteousness and lust for the self. It was used as a common area and waiting place to meet others. And with that opportunity to bask in the presence, allows a person to view his or her greatness and beauty. By no measure do I believe this hall was to exemplify God, when you have to search deeply for God, His word and presence. Rather, here in the Hall of Mirrors you are able to look at yourself and your self-glory and accomplishments.
The gardens epitomize man’s power over nature. The precision and construction of each garden reflect that man controls nature and earth. The entire garden is about 250 acres of land and is the largest garden in Europe. The Orangerie, see picture below, in particular is undoubtedly a masterpiece of Jules Hardouin-Mansart. Each garden and walk of the Palace of Versailles is carefully managed and maintained. André le Nôtre is also accredited to the creation of the gardens and the geometrical idea of gardens. With this idea, it represents precisely man’s ability to control and his power over nature.
The Palace of Versailles is undoubtedly marvelous and stupendous. It’s beauty and creation created a new notion of luxuries intermingled with art. However, the creation of such a palace was not in the intent to glorify God but rather glorify a man who referred to himself as the lieutenant of God. The creation demonstrated his fortune, wealth and power. It not only allowed man to feel minute but also illustrated King Louis XIV’s ability to take space for him alone. The gold found throughout the exterior and interior of the Palace exemplifies the name “The Sun King.”
Below are a few pictures I took while visiting Versailles