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Versailles (vərsīˈ, Fr. vĕrsīˈ), city (1990 pop. 91,029), capital of Yvelines dept., N central France. It was an insignificant rural hamlet when Louis XIII constructed a small retreat there in 1623. The village was soon made famous by Louis XIV, who expanded his father's work and built (mid-17th cent.) the palace and grounds that have become synonymous with the name Versailles. The growth of the town began in 1682, when Louis moved his court there. The huge structure, representing French classical style at its height, was the work of Louis Le Vau, J. H. Mansart, and Charles Le Brun. André Le Nôtre laid out the park and gardens, which are decorated with fountains, reservoirs, and sculptures by such artists as Antoine Coysevox. A huge machine was built at Marly-le-Roi to supply water for the fountains. The park contains two smaller palaces, the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon, as well as numerous temples, grottoes, and other decorative structures.

The scene of the beginnings of the French Revolution, Versailles never again became a royal residence (the Tuileries in Paris replaced it in this function); under Louis Philippe it became a national monument and museum. The palace was the scene of the proclamation of the German Empire (1871) and of the Third French Republic. Several important treaties were signed at Versailles, most notably the 1919 treaty ending World War I and establishing the League of Nations. Today Versailles is one of the greatest tourist centers in France. The palace serves as a residence for visiting foreign leaders. It was the site of a bombing by separatists in 1978, when one wing was damaged. The city has some industry, such as distilling and market gardening. It is a garrison town, with a military hospital and military schools.


See T. Spawforth, Versailles: A Biography of a Palace (2008).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a city in France, a southwestern suburb of Paris, administrative center of the department of Yvelines. Population, 90,800 (1968).

Versailles became internationally famous because of its remarkable monuments of architecture and fine arts as well as the historical events that took place there. Up to 1632, when it was acquired by Louis XIII, Versailles was a small hamlet. From 1682, under Louis XIV, until 1789, it was the chief residence of the French kings. The majestic palace and park ensemble of Versailles was developed in the 17th and 18th centuries. Beginning with a small hunting palace of Louis XIII built by the architect P. Le Roy in 1624, it was transformed through several construction periods (1661-68, architect L. Le Vau; 1670-74, architect F. d’Orbay; 1678-89, architect J. Hardouin-Mansart) into a park covering an area of more than 6,000 hectares and a vast palace (length of the facade 576.2 m) dominating the surroundings, with luxurious formal and living interiors (artist C. Le Brun, beginning 1661, and others). Three roads, to Paris and to the royal palaces of Saint-Cloud and Sceaux, fanned out from the palace; they formed the basis for planning the city of Versailles, where the aristocracy settled. The point of convergence of these roads in the Cour d’Honneur (entrance court) is marked by an equestrian statue of Louis XIV, executed in the second half of the 19th century by the sculptor L. M. L. Petitot. The middle road is continued on the other side of the palace by a spectacular avenue with the Leta (Latona) and Apollo basins and the Grand Canal (1,520 m long), forming the symmetry axis of a regular network of straight alleys in the huge formal gardens (1660’s, architect A. Lenôtre) with festive pavilions, fountains, and works of sculpture (by Girardon, Coyzevox, and others). To the north of the Grand Canal are two palaces: the Grand Trianon, built by the architect Hardouin-Mansart in 1687, and the Petit Trianon, built by the architect J. A. Gabriel in 1762-64. Adjoining the latter is a picturesque landscaped park (1774, architect A. Richard) with Marie Antoinette’s Hameau (a “hut,” a flour mill, and a dairy farm; 1782-86, architect R. Mique and artist H. Robert). The Versailles ensemble, where the spatial sweep of the baroque is combined with the rationalist construction typical of classicism, had a definite influence on the development of the art of city and park construction in many European countries. In 1830 the Versailles ensemble was made the National Museum of Versailles and Trianon.

The Peace Treaty of Versailles of 1783 was signed in Versailles. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 Versailles was occupied by the Prussian Army from September 1870 to March 1871. On Jan. 18, 1871, the German emperor William I was crowned in Versailles. During the Paris Commune of 1871, Versailles, which was then the seat of the National Assembly and of A. Thiers’ government, became the center of the counterrevolution. After World War I the Peace Treaty of Versailles of 1919 was signed in Versailles on June 28, 1919. The city, which was occupied by the German fascist troops during World War II (since 1940), was liberated by French partisans in August 1944.


Alpatov, M. Arkhitektura ansablia Versalia. Moscow, 1940.
Verlet, P. Versailles. Paris [1961].
Decaux, A. La belle Histoire de Versailles: Trois siècles d’histoire de France. Paris, 1962.
Levron, J. Versailles, ville royale. Paris, 1964.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


luxurious palace of French kings; outside Paris. [Fr. Hist.: Brewer Dictionary, 1127]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a city in N central France, near Paris: site of an elaborate royal residence built for Louis XIV; seat of the French kings (1682--1789). Pop.: 85 726 (1999)
2. Treaty of Versailles
a. the treaty of 1919 imposed upon Germany by the Allies (except for the US and the Soviet Union): the most important of the five peace treaties that concluded World War I
b. another name for the (Treaty of) Paris of 1783
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005