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31.5.06

What's under Versailles?

In March, I posted about the latest work to restore the Château de Versailles to its Baroque state. The government has decided to recast the royal grille, a fence that separated the king's part of the courtyard from the common area. Designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, this barrier created a sort of royal clôture, a space set apart, and it was melted down during the Revolution. A new article by Marie-Douce Albert (Les dessous de la cour de Versailles, May 30) for Le Figaro describes the current state of work, which has revealed much of what is underneath that famous courtyard's cobblestones (my translation):

Several vestiges of the destroyed grille remained hidden in the ground and have been uncoverd during archeological excavation. By peering over the barricades, these days visitors can see a little bit underneath the courtyard of Versailles. You see the edge of the grill constructed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and the placement of one of the posts. You can make out little blocks of red wall, the remains of the preceding fortified wall, built by Le Vau. "These excavations have allowed us to demonstrate that the historical pictures we have preserved are accurate," says Frédéric Didier, chief architect of historical monuments. Placed solidly on those historic stones, the new grill will be finished by the end of 2007.
This sort of thing doesn't happen very often, so historians of Versailles are all watching with great interest.

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