The King’s Power / First Time for Everything
Versailles is breathtakingly beautiful and filled with allegorical features. At a first glance the statues and fountains seem to be just for decoration. However that is not the case, architects thought of everything and had a reason for everything. Everything in Versailles was an expression of the King’s power. The fleur-de-lis and the sun symbols were everywhere in Versailles. King Louis XIII’s initials were on the gate and on the facades. More than symbols, the kind used ceremony to exert his power. Back in those times, everything revolved around the king, including the lives of the people who lived and served at Versailles. Our docent, Pablo, explained that aristocrats in the king’s court had to wake up at 6:30 in the morning and watch the king prepare for his day. This would happen every day of the year and the same thing would happen at night. To have fifty people watch you get dress and prepare for the evening is not normal in the modern world. I understood that this was designed to let everyone know that their own day began and ended with the king.
The garden also reflects the Sun King’s power by deliberately using the mythology of Gods and Goddesses. There are four special fountains, each representing the seasons. The Gods, Barcus and Saturn, are looking towards the Goddesses, Flora and Ceres. Surprisingly the Goddesses are not looking at the Gods but instead towards the palace at the Sun King. Down the center of the garden there are two large fountains that can’t be missed, one named Latona’s fountain and the other Apollo’s fountain. The inclusion of these Gods and Goddesses are allegories that also represent the Sun God’s power. The king wants everyone to know he is in charge and surpasses mere mortals. This is highly representative in the Apollo fountain. Apollo is the God of the Sun and yet his statue is looking up towards palace.
Even the placement of everything in the garden suggests towards the Sun King’s power over everything. They way you are pushed to walk through the garden is decided by the garden’s design, which was in turn decided by the King. I have never seen something so symbolically powerful. You could feel the influence of Louis XIII’s power even centuries after he died.
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On a separate and final note, Versailles, and this trip overall had a lot of “firsts” for me. It was the first time I rode a bike and the first time I went on a boat. Learning how to ride a bike in such a public place was not ideal because I feared crashing into everything and everyone. However after crashing into a couple of trees (Marie-Antoinette’s trees, to be precise) I managed to make some improvement. I cannot count how many times I failed or nearly crashed. I refused to give up and finally got some success. I was almost as good as the four year olds riding around without any support.
This entire trip has pushed me out of my comfort zone. It was my first time out of the country and it began with my first plane ride. That was a completely new experience. Then, while in Paris, I was even forced to face a few fears. I tried cured meats and cheeses that I had never tried before. I ate snails and other strange foods. There was a tiny fair in town and it included a large Ferris wheel that showed a great view of the city. I am terrified of heights. However I still went on the Ferris wheel and the view was worth it! I am happy that I got to try so many new things. This trip was so great because it forced me to grow and to be open to many new experiences. I hope to continue with that mindset now that I have returned to my normal life.
– Ana Martin