The Louvre: The Beginning to 1594

The Louvre located in Paris, France is one of the worlds largest, popular, and historic monuments and has been known as a dominate feature to the city of Paris since the late 12th century. Over time the famous Louvre has transformed from a royal palace to a beautiful museum, widely known throughout the world. The Louvre is mainly known for its history, architecture, interior design, and arts.


So where did it all begin? Well it started off with Phillippe Auguste as the original creator of the Louvre. Some parts of the initial Louvre constructed by him, still remain today, but most are long buried underground. The next ruler to take on a significant change for the palace was Francois I, who resided in Paris.  Francois’ decision to move into the city made him more successful in alterations to the Louvre and as a king overall. The changes and transformations that Francois made continued throughout the reigns of Henri II and his sons (Martinez).


Henri II being the first king to actually reside in the Louvre, he focused on honoring the monarchy (Bautier 20). He transformed the Louvre into a royal palace, with an additional building  exclusively for monarchs. When Henri’s wing was complete, it contained sculptures with a sense of hunt such as, dogs, satyrs, and most importantly was the figure of goddess Diana (Bautier 21). This sculpture represented Henri’s mistress Diane de Poitiers, who was more than just a mistress. Although Catherine de Medici was queen at the time, she had barely any political authority. When Henri became king, he gave more political authority to his mistress Diane de Poitiers, who took on the major role as queen (Carroll 415). Henri II not only began the trend of residing in the Louvre itself, but did much reconstruction to turn it into his perfect palace.

At this point in time the Louvre was losing its military purposes, and transitioning into a location for royal festivities and marriages. The Louvre was also the scene of the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, where the killing spread all the way to the royal parts of the Louvre, specifically the room of Queen of Navarre, Henri III’s sister (Bautier 24). Henri III was known for being religious and intelligent, yet disliked. He was forced to escape the palace during the Journée des Barricades in 1588, when he was cornered by a mob and his escape led to the rebels taking over the Louvre (Bautier 32).

Due to the construction of the Tuileries, many new ideas approached for the Louvre. It became a continuous work in progress, eventually leading to the connection of the two, which later on led to the creation of the Grande Galerie (Martinez). The Tuileries Palace was established by Catherine de Medici in 1566, and was later altered by King Henry IV (Horne 82). Although the Tuileries Palace no longer stands today, its impact will forever remain. The Louvre remained unfinished for some time, and later on the same came to be for the Tuileries. Catherine de Medici fled the palace as a reaction from a prophecy, leaving it incomplete (Bautier 36).

In 1589, Henri IV ascended to the throne, five years later he entered Paris and decided that the Louvre would be his home. Henri IV contained an amiable image, had many mistresses, and ruled under divine right. He was determined to make the Louvre and the Tuileries into a magnificent palace. After all of his projects were achieved, the Grande Galerie was built to connect the Petite Galerie to the Tuileries (Bautier 39). Henri IV had a dream to enlarge the Louvre greatly, and link it to the Tuileries by adding two long wings and a collection of courtyards, known as the ‘Grand Design’ (Bautier 39). Unfortunately his vision never played out, due to his death. Later on the Petite and Grande Galerie were altered numerous times, some parts even wiped out and rebuilt (Bautier 42). The changes that the Louvre encountered are all significant to where it stands today.



Works Cited

Bautier, Genevieve Bresc. The Louvre: An Architectural History. New York: The Vendome Press, 1995. Print.

Carroll, Stuart. “Catherine De Médicis (1519-1589).” Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. Ed. Jonathan Dewald. Vol. 1. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2004. 415-416. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 24 Sept. 2013.

Horne, Alistair. Seven Ages of Paris. New York: Vintage Books a Division of Random House, INC., 2002. Print.

Martinez, Jean-Luc. “History of the Louvre: From Chateau to Museum.” Louvre Museum Official Website. Musée du Louvre, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2013.



Photo credit: Veronica Michele Rossi


-Veronica Michele Rossi

Read more

This entry was posted in The French Revolution of 1789, The Louvre and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *