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Versailles: Fit for a King?

Louis XIV of France considered himself a glorious king, so he decreed that a glorious palace be built at Versailles, 11 miles southwest of Paris. And while many people consider that he succeeded in his effort, others have said the palace was a miserable place.

The beautiful 1,300-room building is more than a quarter of a mile long, with paintings and sculptures by major European artists, all set in a 250-acre garden-park with pools and plantings and fountains laid out in geometric patterns.

It is built in the Baroque style, which emphasized very free interpretations of classic forms. Baroque buildings were frequently large, loud structures with gaudy decoration.

Work began on the palace in 1624 under the direction of the French architect Louis Le Van. Forty years later it was finished. Beautiful though it was, the palace was noted for lacking such basic plumbing as toilet and bathing facilities, and for being very badly designed. The kitchen was so far from the dining room that the king's meals often arrived cold.

During the French Revolution in the late 1700s, this symbol of opulence was invaded by mobs, who destroyed or removed many of the art treasures. But at the beginning of the 1900s, the French government began restoring the palace.

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