Language variant : Royal Chapel
Architect : Mansart, J. H.
Locality : Versailles
Country : France
Building style : Baroque
Project on the map (green arrow)
"God and religious matters were always at the forefront of Louis XIV’s mind. His piety was beyond reproach. To his enemies it was the sign of an inexplicable bigotry. 'The King never missed Mass save once in his life', the Duc de Saint-Simon was to note, 'in the army on the day of a long march, nor any day of fast for a true and very rare impediment'.
As the new century was about to dawn the Sun King decided that the architects had not given God his due in the palace. However it was not an ideal time to begin new construction work. France had been weakened after a war in which she almost lost everything, and she would soon have to take up arms again and bleed as never before to retain the kingdom of Spain for one of France’s grandsons, the only descendant of Louis XIV whose line has not yet been extinguished. Voltaire reveals that Madame de Maintenon was at that time most preoccupied by the poverty of the people, of which Racine had painted such a dark picture. 'She did everything in her power to oppose the magnificant chapel which the King had built at Versailles', writes Mademoiselle d’Aumale, 'because the poverty of the people was great at that time, and she also believed that Versailles should no longer be the Court residence'.
On 8th January 1699 Mansart was made Superintendent of buildings. The architect knew his sovereign’s passion for buildings. 'He perstered him', comments Saint-Simon, 'with projects which incurred the greatest expense'. Mansart did not live to enjoy the praise his chapel inspired. He died suddenly in 1708, a victim of his greedy appetite, as Saint-Simon reveals. Since the building was not yet complete, Robert de Cotte was entrusted with the task of finishing it. On 25th April 1710, the Marquis de Dangeau wrote in his diary that, after hearing Mass in the former chapel, the King entered 'the new chapel and had a motet sung, to hear the effect of the music'. Louis XIV expressed his satisfaction and, on the 5th of June, Cardinal de Noailles, Archbishop of Paris, consecrated the edifice."
Gérald Van der Kemp, Versailles, Ed. Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1978, pp. 22–26.
Ed. Adzhoa Makkonen