The Hall of Mirrors at The Palace of Versailles

The Hall of Mirrors at The Palace of Versailles
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  • 0:02 Louis XIV: Sun King
  • 1:41 The Hall of Mirrors
  • 4:15 Purpose of the Room
  • 5:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

Few rooms are more breathtaking than the Hall of Mirrors located at Versailles. In this lesson, you will learn about how the space came to be, how and why it's decorated and the ways it's been used through the years.

Louis XIV: Sun King

Although it's hard to imagine now, when King Louis XIII built Versailles in the early 1600s, it was a small chalet tucked away in the French countryside where the king went to hunt and relax. This all changed when his successor, Louis XIV, became France's king when he was just four years old. As Louis XIV grew up, he considered himself to be an incredible ruler. So incredible, in fact, that he wanted to reorganize government so that he, as the king, was the center. He took the cozy little chalet in Versailles and turned it into a massive complex where the royal palace and the French government were all rolled into one. By 1682, Louis XVI had moved the royal family, the government, and his entourage to Versailles.

Louis XIV had a very high opinion of himself and created his own nickname: the Sun King. As the most important person in France, Louis XIV had the power, and the ego, to start elaborate rituals and ceremonies. Members of his court gathered every morning to watch him wake up and then again in the evening to watch him go to sleep. Eventually, he even had a special ceremony for people to watch him take off his shoes. Louis XIV lived in a lavish apartment, but it was also important to him that the rest of Versailles reflected not only his magnificence as king, but the splendor of France. Of all of the rooms at Versailles, the Hall of Mirrors is one of the best examples of Louis XIV's obsession with luxury and grandeur.

The Hall of Mirrors

The Hall of Mirrors, or La Grand Galerie in French, is a massive room that measures about 240 feet long and 34 feet wide and has a 40-foot ceiling. On one wall, 357 mirrors stretch from floor to ceiling. On the opposite wall, 17 large glass doors offer breathtaking views of Versailles' sprawling gardens. The mirrors were strategically placed in the room to reflect the scenery outside.

When the Hall of Mirrors was first constructed, Louis XVI had a clear vision for the space. He wanted it to include three key themes:

  1. political achievements
  2. economic achievements
  3. artistic achievements

Artist Charles Le Brun is largely responsible for bringing Louis XIV's dream to life. He and his team created most of the works of art and design elements in the Hall of Mirrors. The ceiling of the Hall of Mirrors depicts the political achievement of Louis XIV. It's painted with scenes that depict nearly 20 years of Louis XIV's reign, including victories at major battles and the measures he took to reorganize the French government. Other scenes portray Louis XIV as god-like and supernatural (his nickname was the Sun King, after all). The image is just one of the 100+ scenes on the hall's ceilings. As you can see, the young Louis XIV is seated among angels and cherubs playing cards. This probably didn't happen in real life!

This painting from the Hall of Mirrors ceiling shows Louis XIV as a kind of god, surrounded by angels and cherubs.
Hall of Mirrors Painting

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