Palace of Versailles golden gate restored
The golden gate of the Palace of Versailles has finally been replaced after being torn down during the French Revolution over 200 years ago.
It took over two years to replicate the original 80m wrought iron and gold leaf gate, and it will be officially inaugurated on 8 July.
A total of 100,000 gold leaves have been crafted into the shapes of fleur de lys, crowns, masks of Apollo, cornucopias and the crossed capital Ls representing the Sun King.
The royal gate, which stands at the entrance to the cour d'honneur, "provides an essential element of Versailles' historical identity", said Jean-Jacques Aillagon, president of the palace monument. "It returns to this area in front of the château all its symbolic force."
Private donors contributed £4 million to rebuild the 15-ton work, and a plethora of historians and top craftsmen – sculptors, gilders, wrought iron craftsmen and ornament makers – were drafted in to ensure an exact replica of the original built by Jules Hardouin-Mansart in the 1680s.
The only surviving sculpted elements of the original palace enclosure are Peace by Tuby and Abundance by Coysevox.
"But it was very well documented, which allows us to create a faithful replica," said Frédéric Didier, architect in chief of France' historical monuments.
Experts studied 17th and 18th century archives and information from archaeological digs before deciding on the final model.
The gate is the centrepiece of a secure double enclosure separating the cour d'honneur from the royal courtyard – at the very heart of the palace.
"Versailles is the king's residence and the whole layout aimed to demonstrate that one was approaching his sacred person," said Mr Aillagon.
Some historical information about the March on Versailles.
The March on Versailles, also known as The Bread March of Women, and The Women's March on Versailles, was an event in the French Revolution. Although the National Assembly had taken the Tennis Court Oath and the Bastille had fallen at the hands of the crowd, the poor women of Paris still found that there was a considerable bread shortage and the prices were very high. A crowd had once killed a baker for overpricing his bread. On October 5, 1789, rumors spread in Paris that the royals were hoarding all the grain. A hungry mob of 7,000 largely working-class women decided to march on the Palace of Versailles, taking with them pieces of cannon and other weaponry.
This is when Marie Antoinette was supposedly to have spoken the famous line 'let them eat cake' although there is some dispute as to whether she actually said that.
A large crowd had gathered in the palace's courtyard and were demanding that the queen come to the balcony. She appeared in her night-robe, accompanied by her two children. The crowd demanded that the two children be sent back inside. So the queen stood alone for almost ten minutes, whilst many in the crowd pointed muskets at her. She then bowed her head and returned inside. Some in the mob were so impressed by her bravery that they cried "Vive la Reine!" ("Long live the Queen!")
The stoic behaviour of the queen had greatly calmed the crowd, but the women still demanded bread and food. As well as this, they asked that the royal family leave Versailles and return to Paris. Louis XVI reluctantly agreed, and the royal family moved to the Tuileries Palace, the dilapidated royal residence in Paris, where they were essentially under house arrest. Amid great confusion, the entire court and the National Constituent Assembly accompanied the royal family on its journey back to Paris. There was a triumphant entrance into the city. Louis XVI, however, had made a fatal mistake and was to never see Versailles again.
The Women's March on Versailles was one of the turning points of the French Revolution; it showed that the peasants of the Third Estate were a force to be reckoned with.
This march also showed that women could be a driving force in history. These women of the Third Estate, however, were from the Parisian underclass, and are depicted as such (often crudely) in art from the Revolution. Since many of the women worked in the city's fish market, artists frequently display them naked with fish heads replacing their real heads.