A garden at the King's service
André Le Nôtre, Louis XIV's head gardener, undertook in 1662 the creation of gardens for the Château de Versailles. Thanks to the valuable aid of the Francine family of hydrologists, it took him only four years to carry out the King's command.
In 1666, the monarch inaugurated the first Fountain Shows Of Versailles (the setting in water of the first basins and fountains).
The gardens of Château de Versailles are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and have been awarded the "jardin remarquable" label.
The Park, the plan of which was finally decided in 1668, then revealed the principal fountains and above all the entire geometrical lay, out of the gardens, strickly symmetrical. From east to west, following the course of the sun, a major axis was traced : The Great Perspective, going from the Water Parterre to the end of the Grand Canal. The secondary perspective, with a north-south orientation takes its source at the Neptune Foutnain and terminates at the Swiss Pool.
From these two axes, Le Nôtre planted fourteen groves, enclosed by palisades of clipped bushes. They provide veritable outdoor theatres for royal festivities.
From the 17th century onwards, the Château de Versailles and its garden played an essential political role. Thus in order to symbolise more clearly the radiance and glory of his power, Louis XIV became the Sun, King by choosing to identify himself with the god of light in Greek mythology. That is why the representations of Apollo in statuary, wood paneling and pictures are so frequent at Versailles.
Yet the garden also remains a place dedicated to pleasure of the senses and festivities. Thus visitors walking round the grounds could enjoy to the full the most beautiful vistas and the spectacular show of the fountains playing. Louis XIV himself, between 1702 and 1704, wrote a book entitled "The way to present the Gardens of Versailles".
During the reign of Louis XVI, the Petit Parc was in danger of being turned into an english garden. En 1789, the Revolution put a stop to this project but did not prevent the division of the Grand Parc into several plots. Luckily the garden kept its orginial shape, imaginated by Le Nôtre.
The Fountain shows of Versailles , created in the reign of Louis XIV, did not become "musical" the start of the 19th century and since then they have never ceased to be played.
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