• LOCATION 70 | Hidden Messages from the Sun King: A Guide to the Palace of Versailles' Gardens

    Wood of Three Fountains

    Wood of Three Fountains on Versailles, Yvelines audio tour Hidden Messages from the Sun King: A Guide to the Palace of Versailles' Gardens

    Moving up in this direction, you are meant to be growing in experience by ascending, and refining all you have learned, represented by the fountains becoming elevated and changing shape. We start with an octagon, the number eight signifying the resurrection of Christ on the 8th day. We move to a square for the physical world, and at last at the summit, a circle for the universal, sacred and divine.

    This North-South axis was inspired by the illustrated book, the "Dream of Poliphile," also known as the 'Hypnerotomachia,' published in Italy 200 years before the Palace gardens were created. It's a fantasy story presented to Louis XIV in his youth by Cardinal Mazarin, who taught the king Italian, and governed the country while preparing the monarch to lead.

    The book's numerous magical drawings show Greek gods on victory processions, and other erotic mythological beings in a land of fountains, nature, sculptures, medallions, trophies and hieroglyphs.

    The main character, Poliphile, is a seeker on a quest for love from his lost Polia, and to understand the mysteries of life. Walking alone through an ancient palace in his search for enlightenment, Poliphile is pursued by a dragon and pleads for the gods' help. He escapes through a tunnel to the outdoors where five beautiful ladies tell him he's now safe un a world of peace and friendship. He joins a feast, then is guided to three doors, behind one of which he's promised his beloved lies. He chooses the middle door, and is reunited with Polia.

    They sail in cupid's boat to a land of nymphs, where cupid on his chariot leads them through rows of perfectly aligned trees to an amphitheatre. The couple is fascinated by the majesty of the setting and the harmony of forms. Cupid's arrow tears a silk banner, behind which his mother, Venus, floats on a cloud. Poliphile and Polia are humbled to be present at such a scene, normally off-limits to mortals. Venus marries them, but during the ceremony, Poliphile awakens alone in his bed.

    It was all a dream for him, and a fictional tale for us, but one Louis XIV brought to life. You are invited to continue Poliphile's quest, with the possibility of a better fate.

    After the last fountain at the very top, exit to the right and immediately look left for a line of four statues.

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Hidden Messages from the Sun King: A Guide to the Palace of Versailles' Gardens