First built as a castle (château) to defend Paris, the Louvre is now the largest museum in the world! Built in 1190 as a fortress by Philippe Auguste, from 1546 on, the Louvre became home to various French monarchs (along with the Tuileries Palace, across the courtyard). When King Louis XIV shifted his official residence to Versailles in 1682, the Louvre was transformed from a palace to an art haven. Over the centuries, it has housed everything from government departments to art schools to the world’s masterpieces. The Louvre officially became a museum in 1793, in revolutionary France, though it was Napoleon in 1801 who solidified the institution’s new role (the Louvre was even known as “le Musée Napoléon” for a short time).
Today, this museum combines a wonderful mixture of architectural styles. While parts of the original fortress are still there in its basement, the main buildings are elegant in their Baroque and French Classic styles. A modern landmark was also added in 1988: an enormous pyramid made of glass panels was installed outside of the Louvre by I.M. Pei, along with three small pyramids. An underground inverted pyramid was added in 1993.
Filled with priceless art and historical artifacts, some highlights of the Louvre’s incredible collection include: Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Code of Hammurabi, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, Jacques-Louis David’s The Coronation of Napoleon, Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, the Venus de Milo, and Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People. And there is an amazing variety of pieces from cultures worldwide and from all eras!