Before opening as a public museum in 1793, which art museum was a royal palace?

And the answer: The Louvre.    

Located in Paris, The Louvre was originally built as a fortress in the 12th century, but was reconstructed in the 16th century to serve as a royal palace. Today it's one of the most famous museums in the world, and includes masterpieces like the Mona Lisa.

Photo credit: Benh LIEU SONG (Flickr).

From Medieval palace to art museum, The Louvre has undergone eight centuries of architectural and conceptual transformation. King Philippe Auguste began work on the Louvre with the intention of creating a fortress – a square, defensive line between the Seine and the walls of Paris. It wasn't for another century that the structure was altered to become a royal residence. For the next several hundred years, French rulers occupied the walls of the Louvre, creating new wings and additions reflective of their respective time period.

Catherine de' Medici, a widow of Henri II, built another palace and garden just outside of the walls, intended for her personal use. Along the waterfront, Henri IV constructed La Grande Gallerie, connecting the two magnificent structures. At 460 meters, it was the longest building ever seen in Paris at that point, and the first milestone of an ambitious project that would continue under his successors.

Over the next several centuries, more projects by successive rulers and architects would take hold of the palace until its structure was finally solidified to the state with which we are familiar today. Its transition to museum was gradual – after Louis XIV moved the royal residence to Versailles, only a single wing of the entire Louvre Palace was dedicated to salon-style art for many years – but eventually the public came to know the Louvre as a source of high art and inspiration. Today, it remains so.

Learn more about The Louvre below.


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