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The royal palace that became one of the world’s most famous museums

The Louvre is one of the most-visited museums in the world today with over eight million visitors annually. However, it originally was the Palais du Louvre- a royal residence on the Right Bank of the Seine.

The first castle on this site was built in the late twelfth century for Philip II. This castle did not survive. The Lescot Wing, however, is the oldest surviving above-ground piece of the Louvre Palace and dates back to the mid sixteenth century. French architect Pierre Lescot designed the wing in what is now known as the Parisian Renaissance style.

From the fifteenth to the late seventeenth century, most monarchs had building projects carried out on the palace meaning it was in a continual state of construction. Louis XIV decided to move the court to Versailles in the early 1680s and the Louvre’s role changed.

With the court at Versailles, the Louvre Palace was largely used to store works of art in the royal collection. In the 1670s, a few of the rooms were first used as an art gallery.

It was not until the French Revolution that the palace opened to the public as a museum that anyone could visit. The Revolutionary government declared the royal collection to be public property and would be on display.

Napoleon claimed many artworks throughout his military artworks and sent them back to Paris to be displayed in the Louvre; however, many countries reclaimed their pieces.

During the Second World War, many of the pieces in the collection were sent to the countryside to remain safe. They would not return to the museum until France’s liberation in 1945.

In 1981, the French government launched a plan to restructure the museum by moving government offices out of the North Wing of the palace and expanding the museum’s space. Further spaces were added in the 1990s, included the famous Inverted Pyramid.

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