The Palace of Versailles is one of the World Heritage monuments that receives the most visits per year. Its majesty, its architectural beauty and its proximity to Paris contribute to this. In this article, we will focus on the characteristics that made it a part of world heritage monuments.
In the 17th century, Louis XIV, the Sun King, had a palace built in the town of Versailles, near Paris. The objective was to build a real city away from the problems and turbulent life of the city. The king did not know then that it would be one of the most important architectural complexes in Europe.
Many are the lines that have been written about this spectacular palace and its gardens. Therefore, we are not going to talk about its architectural aspects or its history. We analyze the criteria by which the Palace of Versailles entered the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979.
What is Unesco?
Unesco is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It was founded on November 16, 1945 with the aim of embodying and fostering a culture of peace in humanity and avoiding another tragic war.
The organization wanted to strengthen the ‘intellectual and moral solidarity of humanity’ in order to achieve international peace and the general welfare of humanity. The means to achieve this was through education, science, culture, and collaboration among nations. In its constitution, its ultimate purpose was indicated:
Several were the functions that they established to achieve those objectives. One of them consisted of promoting the conservation, progress and dissemination of knowledge. Its function is to ensure the conservation and protection of the universal heritage of books, works of art and monuments of historical or scientific interest.
To meet this objective, the 1972 Convention on the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage created the World Heritage Committee. This committee has the functions of applying the provisions of said convention and managing the monuments that would be inscribed on the World Heritage list.
Criteria for entering the list of World Heritage Sites
Heritage is divided into two: cultural and natural. There are different criteria to be part of the World Heritage list. In the case of cultural heritage, six criteria are established that monuments must meet:
- Represent a masterpiece of human creative genius.
- Witness an important exchange of human values over a period of time or within a cultural area of the world, in the development of architecture, technology, monumental arts, urban planning or landscape design.
- Provide a unique or exceptional testimony of a cultural tradition or an existing or already disappeared civilization.
- Provide an eminent example of a type of building, architectural, technological or landscape ensemble that illustrates a significant stage in human history.
- Be an eminent example of a tradition of human settlement, use of the sea or land, that is representative of a culture or of human interaction with the environment.
- To be associated with events or living traditions, with ideas or beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.
Bearing in mind these criteria, let us see which were the ones that were applied in the case of the Palace of Versailles and its gardens so that it was incorporated as a World Heritage monument.
The Palace of Versailles, a World Heritage Site
On March 8, 1979, a proposal report was submitted to the Convention to include the palace and parks of Versailles in the Unesco Heritage list. In that report a detailed description of the monument and its state of conservation was made.
They also established which were the criteria that it met to register as a World Heritage Site. Four were the requirements that, according to said report, the monument met.
The first referred to the palace’s value as a masterpiece. The report said: “Versailles is a unique artistic and aesthetic achievement; a masterpiece, a representation of the creative spirit of the human being due to the breadth and perfection of the work ”.
The second highlighted the fact that the work testifies to an exchange of human values in the development of architecture. They emphasized that the palace has had an important influence on architecture and, in general, on the design of gardens and landscapes in the classical style.
Third, the Committee appealed to the uniqueness of the building. He classified it as a structure that perfectly illustrated a stage in European history. Thus, he pointed out that Versailles forms an architectural ensemble of gardens, forests and bodies of water unique in European classicism.
Finally, they linked the monument to the figure of the Sun King. In this way, they were endowing the figure of Louis XIV with an outstanding historical significance of the European seventeenth century and of world history.