Museum of The Louvre - History

Museum of The Louvre - History (19A)

The Museum of the Louvre is one of the most important and oldest museums in the world. Its collections cover the art of all times and cultures in around three-hundred thousand items. Of course, the museum is the biggest in Paris and the third largest in the world. You can tell by the fact that it covers 160,000 square metres.

The Louvre was founded in the Middle Ages. King Philippe Auguste had ordered a large protective wall to be built around Paris. He was aware that Paris was the most important city in Europe. But around 1190 he realised that the wall was not enough to protect the city and he wanted to add a castle-fort. Its most characteristic element would be a large tower, the Grosse Tour du Louvre. His idea was to safeguard the gates of Paris before the threat of an Anglo-Norman invasion. However, Paris no longer fitted within the wall and continued its unstoppable growth beyond the city walls. Charles V ordered a new wall to be built, leaving the old one obsolete.

Having lost its defensive nature, the castle of the Louvre came to be the residence of King Charles V in 1364. The castle was abandoned after the death of Charles VI. It was not until the times of François I that it once again became a royal residence. In 1528 the tower was destroyed, thus erasing its last original medieval vestige. The new castle followed the style of the new Renaissance current.

Pierre Lescot was entrusted to transform the fortress into a luxurious palace. The works were titanic and lasted for several more royal reigns, those of Henry II and Henry IV. And as if this was not enough, in 1566 he wanted to join the Louvre with the Tuileries Palace by means of a large gallery. This project was called the "Grand Dessein". On the death of Henry IV the works were halted and left unfinished. Louis XIII did not seem too interested in the Louvre. And when finally Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles as royal residence, all the work was halted.

But the Louvre was never completely abandoned. Louis XIV had an affection for the room of the Caryatids and he filled it with classical sculptures. The palace became the headquarters of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. In 1699 the first exhibition of the academy was organised and was attended by a large public. 

Louis XV decided to start up the unfinished works of his predecessor and finally the Louvre took on its definitive appearance. In 1791 it was decreed that the Louvre would be dedicated to "the bringing together of all the monuments of the sciences and the arts". The history of the Louvre as a museum began two years later, although at that time it was only open on Sundays.

Later on in the time of the Empire, Napoleon, who had an ego inversely proportional to his physical size, changed the name of the museum. And what better than to call it after himself! Thus during the Empire, the Louvre was the Napoleon Museum. It was the time in which the Louvre became the largest museum in the world, thanks above all to the pillaging of all the areas that Napoleon conquered. On his fall, the pillaged nations reclaimed what was theirs and the museum closed its doors. 

With a new perspective, and until the mid-19th century, it was decided to create a museum again. In 1826 the Egyptian antiquities section was opened, under the directorship of the man who discovered the principles of hieroglyphic writing, Jean-François Champollion.

In 1871 the Louvre became detached from all political power and definitively acquired its cultural character.

 During the World War, the museum’s doors were once again closed and many works had to be moved to other places, in particular the castle of Chambort. However, the Louvre opened again in 1940 during the Nazi occupation of the city.

The grand transformation of the Louvre in recent years came at the hand of a president who was a lover of the arts. In 1981, François Mitterrand went ahead with the project of the "Grand Louvre". The architect Ieoh Ming-Pei was entrusted to build the metal and glass pyramid that is the entrance to the museum. The grand Pyramid, opened on the 30 March 1989 is 21 metres high, and has a total of 793 glass rhombuses and triangles. Without this pyramid, the argument of “The Da Vinci Code” would not be the same since it has a key role in the novel by Dan Brown, just like the rest of Museum of the Louvre.

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