5 Highlights Of Louis XIV's Paris – In The Footsteps Of History

Louis XIV, AKA The Sun King (a title he bestowed upon himself) remains one of the most famous French kings. Taking the throne at age four, Louis XIV ruled France until his death in 1715 at the age of 76, making him the longest-ruling monarch in the history of Europe. During his reign, Louis made a huge impact on the future of Paris.

Although he was the king who moved the French court to Versailles, thereby abandoning Paris and the Louvre palace as the seat of government, he used his wealth and power to patronize the arts, music, painting, dance and architecture. All the arts flourished under his reign, turning Paris into the artistic center of Europe. Let's take a look at five highlights of Louis XIV's impact on Paris during his time on the throne.


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1. Place Vendôme

Place Vendôme

In 1699, Louis XIV asked Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the chief architect of Versailles, to create a place of hôtels particuliers (mansions), much like his grandfather Henry IV had done at Place des Vosges. Originally named Place des Conquetes, the square was built to celebrate the great victories of Louis VIV's armies. But, since those conquests were were soon reversed, the name was quickly changed to Place Louis le Grand.

The focal point of the square was an equestrian statue of Louis XIV, placed in the center. As you might expect, during the French Revolution the statue was destroyed. It was replaced by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1810 with a triumphal column to honor… Napoleon. (In a twist of French fate, the statue of Napoleon was removed after his downfall and melted down to create a statue of Henry IV, Louis XIV's grandfather.) Today, Place Vendôme is famously home to the Ritz Hotel and other luxury brands.

2. Jardin des Tuileries

Jardin des Tuileries

Originally the royal garden of the Tuileries Palace (built in 1564 by Catherine de' Medici ), Louis XIV had the jardin completely redesigned by Andre le Nôtre, chief landscape architect of Versailles. When Louis' first child was born in 1662, he held a vast pageant to celebrate the event in the New Garden, which would become known as the Place du Carrousel. (This is where today you can find the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, although that arch was built later, by Napoleon.)

Once Louis XIV focused his ambitions on Versailles, he abandoned Paris, including the royal residence of the Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries. Initially reserved for royal activities, the Jardin des Tuileries was one of the first royal gardens in Paris open to the public.

3. The 20-Foot Globes in the Bibliothéque Nationale

Globes of Louis XIV

In 1681, Louis XIV commissioned an Italian cartographer to build two globes to symbolize the French monarch's ownership of the world. (Louis somehow forgot to inform most of the rest of the world about this fact.) They became an instant sensation. Made of wood, fabric and plaster, they originally were displayed at Versailles.

One globe shows the heavens with the stars aligned as they would have appeared on the date of Louis' birth. The other depicts the Earth as they then knew it. It's incredible that the original globes have survived the centuries and even the French Revolution ! Today, they can be seen at their new home, the François-Mitterrand branch of the Bibliothéque Nationale de France. In the 13th Arrondissement.



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4. Les Invalides

Les Invalides

This was Louis VIV's greatest project in Paris. Started in 1670, the complex of buildings was created to ensure that soldiers who served in the king's army would receive housing, care, and assistance.

The Église du Dome, built for Louis himself, is the most striking building within the complex. The gilded dome is modeled after the dome of St Peter's Basilica in Rome. Eventually, Napoleon would be interred beneath it. Today, Les Invalides also houses the Musée de l'Armée.

5. Paris Opera Ballet

aris Opera Ballet, photo by David Elofer

It's the oldest national ballet company in the world and it got its start from none other than Louis XIV. An avid dancer himself (something you don't see too much anymore in royals), in 1661 the Sun King created the Ballet Conservatoire for the Royal Academy of Music.

Many of the policies he put in place are still in force today, like free tuition and admission through selection. To this day, the competition is fierce to be selected to attend the ballet school. Following the success of the ballet school, in 1669 Louis also established the Academie d'Opera, to perform French operas.

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