Résumé

Long before the Louvre Museum, the Louvre was a fortress begun in 1190 by King Philip Augustus. It was transformed over several centuries:

in 1515: King Francis I (François 1er) turns the former fortress into a Renaissance palace.
In 1594, Henri IV undertook the great project of reuniting the Louvre Palace with the Tuileries castle, with two long galleries devoted to the king's art collections.
In the 17th century, the king's taste was for French classicism: Louis XIV preferred Claude Perrault's regular and colossal project.
Just behind it, the square courtyard, now open to the city, is delicately lit in the evening (open from 7.30-24.00 in summer and from 8.45-22.00 in winter).
The Louvre became a museum in 1793, and underwent its final transformations during the Second Empire, when the galleries on either side of the Cour Napoléon were completed.
But just as the original plan to link the Louvre palace to the neighboring Tuileries Palace was being completed, the Tuileries Palace was deliberately set on fire by the Communards (Insurrection of 1871).

In 1981, "the Grand Louvre" was one of the major works decided by President Mitterrand. The Richelieu wing (to the north, on the rue de Rivoli side), then still occupied by the Ministry of Finance, became part of the museum. The ministry is transferred to its current location, quai de Bercy. The surface of the museum increases from 30 000 m² to 55 000 m².

We suggest the "Pyramid of the Louvre" (see below) as a starting point for walks "from the Louvre".

Localisation
Open hours

Opening hours and closing periodes of the Museem

Closed on Tuesdays

Open

  • Monday:  9h00 - 18h00
  • Wednesday: 9h00 - 21h45
  • Thursday: 9h00- 18h00
  • Friday: 9h00 - 21h45
  • Saturday: 9h00 - 18h00*
  • Sunday: 9h00 - 18h00

* until 9:45 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month

The best times to visit the Louvre museum are: in the morning when the museum opens & at night.

Exceptional closing days of the Museum in 2020

  • January 1st (New Year's Day)
  • May 1st (Labour Day)
  • December 25th (Christmas)

Opening hours (Covid)

  • Wednesday-Monday, 9am-6pm (Wednesday and Friday night hours are suspended until the end of 2020). Free Saturday nights resume on October 3, 2020, until 9:45 p.m. (online reservation required).
    Subject to exceptional modifications (works, transport strikes...), an annual calendar specifies which collections are open or closed for each day of the week +33 (0) 1 40 20 53 17. Individuals may enter the museum via the Pyramid; access to Richelieu is reserved for groups and Louvre loyalty cardholders.

Nocturne
Saturday night openings resume on October 3, 2020, until 9:45 pm (online reservation required). The Wednesday and Friday evening events are suspended until the end of 2020.

Exceptional opening

  • Easter
  • Easter Monday
  • Ascension Day
  • May 8th
  • Pentecost
  • Pentecost Monday
  • August 15th
  • November 1st
  • November 11th
Access

Palais du Louvre
rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris

It is possible to access the Louvre Museum from the Gare du Musée d'Orsay (on the other side of the Seine river).

Address

Palais du Louvre
rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris

Coordinates Latitude Longitude
Sexagesimal (°, ', ") 48° 51′ 39″ N 2° 20′ 09″ E
Degré décimal (GPS) 48.86107 2.33572

 

48° 51′ 40″ N, 2° 20′ 09″ E

Reservation
To book a visit at Le Louvre click here
General rates and conditions to visit the Museum : 

Self-guided tour

  • Ticket booked online (recommended) with time slot on https://www.ticketlouvre.fr : 17€/adult.
  • Ticket purchased on site: €15/adult. Tickets are valid on the same day for the Musée du Louvre (permanent collections and temporary exhibitions) and the Musée Eugène-Delacroix (for 48 hours).

Group visits

  • Reservations required. Maximum 25 people per group (see conditions on the website).
  • Reservations for group visits with a museum lecturer:
    • by mail: Musée du Louvre - Visites-conférences - Service vente et réservation à distance - Direction accueil surveillance vente - 75058 Paris Cedex 01
    • by telephone: +33 (0) 1 40 20 51 77 Reservations for independent group visits with an outside guide: - by mail: Musée du Louvre
    • Autonomous groups - Service vente et réservation à distance - Direction accueil surveillance vente 75058 Paris Cedex 01
      • by telephone: +33 (0) 1 40 20 57 60.

Free

  • We strongly recommend that free visitors reserve a time slot on https://www.ticketlouvre.fr, even for those with a Paris Museum Pass.
  • Free admission for all on the first Saturday of every month from 6:00 pm to 9:45 pm.
  • Free admission for all on July 14.
  • Free admission for under-18s and EU citizens aged 18 to 25 and teachers with an Education Pass. Also for all under 26 years old during the Friday night hours, starting at 6pm.
  • Free access to the permanent collections and temporary exhibitions in the Hall Napoléon for jobseekers, recipients of minimum social benefits, disabled civilians and war victims. The complete list is available on the website.

Free admission for children and young people

  • It is strongly recommended that those who benefit from free admission reserve a time slot on https://www.ticketlouvre.fr -18 years old.
  • Also for EU citizens under 26 years old and teachers holding the Education pass. Also for all those under 26 years old during the Friday night sessions, starting at 6 pm.

Accepted payment methods

  • CB/Visa
  • Eurocard/Mastercard
  • Amex
  • Vacation cheque
Description complète

The construction of the Louvre Palace is inseparable from the history of Paris and of France. It spans more than 800 years, in a variety of historical and political contexts. Part of the works were begun and then abandoned for decades. However, the architectural unity has been preserved.

The Medieval Louvre "Palace" construction

It is a simple defensive fortress located immediately outside the western part of the great wall surrounding the city decided by King Philip Augustus (1165 - 1223) (Philip II). The Louvre at the time consisted of a rectangular enclosure of 72 and 78 meters on each side. It was reinforced by ten defense towers, with a 15-meter diameter and 32-meter high keep in the center.

Under King Saint-Louis (1214 - 1270), (Louis IX) the Louvre castle underwent an important enlargement. The royal treasure was also transferred there, giving a new character to the fortress.

However, it was under Charles V, (le Sage) who had a new rampart built between 1360 and 1383 to protect the city of Paris which had expanded.  The Louvre is then included in this new defensive system. In addition to its protective role, it became one of the residences of the king and the court.

Note
On the other side of the Seine, at the same time, the Parliament of Paris was installed in the Ile de la Cité Palace (now the Palais de Justice of Paris). Its function was more "administrative" and particularly judicial.   It became the seat of the sovereign aspect of the king's authority, in its most eminent function: justice. (See article - also to be visited). 
The Louvre thus appears to be the seat of the king's feudal authority to balance the Palais Royal de la Cité power.

Charles V (1338 - 1380) a great lover of art, transferred part of his library (900 volumes) to le Louvre. This is the timid starting point of the Louvre's cultural function.

The beginning of the present Louvre

The general plan of the palace was not imagined until the Renaissance (1400 - 1600). Charles V (1338 - 1380) was the first king of France to establish his residence here, giving the palace the status of a royal residence. It retained this status until the reign of Louis XIV (1638 - 1715).

The Louvre Palace construction during the Renaissance

In 1527, François 1st decided the Louvre Palace construction to be his main Parisian residence. He had the central keep demolished (1528). He entrusted the architect Pierre Lescot with the project of building a modern palace in the spirit of the Renaissance.

After the king's death (1547), Louvre Palace construction had barely begun, but the project was continued (and amended) by his successor Henri II (1519 - 1559). However, at the death of Henry II in 1559, the castle of the Louvre is still very medieval, having only one wing in Renaissance style.

Note
Henri II was accidentally killed by a spear during a party and that this same king had as his mistress the aptly named Diane de Poitiers.

The Louvre Palace construction and Catherine de Medici

Queen Catherine de Medici (regent from 1560 to 1563) had the work on the southern wing continued. In her "Quen's house", Catherine places many Italian compatriots in a court of upper standing. She was also responsible for the creation of important gardens, large stables, and the neighboring Tuileries Palace (burned down in 1871) next to the Louvre Palace construction. (See our article Jardin des Tuileries). The construction of the Tuileries palace began in 1564.

The Louvre, the residence of kings of France

The Louvre Palace construction serves as the residence of the royal family when they come to Paris. During the reign of Henri III (of France) (aussi king of Poland), which began in 1574, it became the main residence of the King of France and remained so until Louis XIV's installation at Versailles in 1682.

The marriage of Marguerite de Valois with Henri III of Navarre

One is Catholic, the other Protestant and King of Navarre (a few years later he will become King of France under the name of Henri IV). At that time he was still Henry III, king of Navarre, a small kingdom between France and Spain. The wedding took place on August 18, 1572. It was accepted neither by the intransigent Catholics, nor by the very Catholic Parisians, nor by Pope Gregory XIII, who asked for the fiancé's conversion to Catholicism.

The Louvre Palace construction during the Wars of Religion (8 conflicts between 1562 and 1598)

However, it was Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, a high dignitary but Protestant, and the two days following his assassination attempt, that plunged France into the Wars of Religion. De Coligny escaped assassination on 22 August 1572, but not for long.

During the night of August 23rd to 24th 1572, the massacre of the Protestants took place on St. Bartholomew's Day. First started in Paris on August 24th, it spread to about twenty provincial towns in the following weeks and even months.

During this atrocious night, three lords come to finish off de Coligny in his bed and deliver his body to the rabble, in horrible conditions.

After multiple adventures, in the absence of an heir to Henri III of France, his cousin Henri III of Navarre legitimately became heir to the throne and king of the French 17 years later in 1589, under the name of Henri IV.

The Louvre Palace construction and Henri IV

Arriving at the head of a ruined country in 1589, the new sovereign gave new impetus to the Louvre Palace construction. His target was to revive the economy by means of major public works. This desire to enlarge the Louvre, which took the name of Grand Dessein, was accompanied by the renovation of the surrounding neighborhood.

The Grand Dessein is pursuing several objectives:

  • The removal of the remains of the medieval Louvre;
  • the construction of a square courtyard on the base of the already built Lescot wing (surface area multiplied by four compared to that of the medieval courtyard);
  • the reunion of the Louvre at the Tuileries Palace. Henri IV had the great gallery of the Louvre built, linking it to the Tuileries Palace (burned down in 1871).
  • The expropriation of the districts between the two palaces.

However, the assassination of Henri IV in 1610 brought work to a halt, while the neighborhood became even more densely populated. The northern and eastern parts of the medieval Louvre remain in place.

The Louvre under Louis XIII (king from 1610 to 1643) and Louis XIV until 1682

In 1624, Louis XIII (son of Henri IV) first resumed work on the Cour Carrée, while respecting Lescot's initial style and giving an important role to the pavilions. Thus, to the north of the Lescot wing, Lemercier had the Pavillon de l'Horloge built, which he extended by another wing identical to that of Lescot. The purpose was to keep a harmonious symmetry and double the Henri II staircase by a staircase improperly called Henri IV staircase.

Under Louis XIV - It was only after the king entered Paris on October 21, 1652 - that his minister Mazarin became interested in the development of apartments in the Louvre. It was not until a royal decree of October 31, 1660, that the grand design was once again taken up. In 1664, Colbert (Chief Minister) took over the superintendence of the king's buildings.  He saw the Louvre as primarily a political project.

The laying of the foundation stone for the eastern façade took place on November 19, 1667, after the king's choice of May 13. The most delicate operation was the laying of two stones forming the "Cimaise" of the pediment, each 17 meters long and 2.50 meters wide. In 1672, the installation of these stones was carried out. Since their cutting in a quarry in Meudon (outside of Paris), the operation lasted 3 years.

But Louis XIV had already begun to take an interest in the construction of the Palace of Versailles since 1664. The abandonment of the Louvre for Versailles in 1682 left the work on the eastern facade of the Louvre unfinished.

The Louvre left by Louis XIV during the Revolution

Abandoned by Louis XIV in favor of Versailles, the Louvre was quickly deserted, occupied only occasionally during royal visits or councils. The Grand Design and Colbert's work were abandoned. The square courtyard was not completed and the colonnade was without a roof. A dense neighborhood remains between the Louvre and the Palais des Tuileries. As the aristocracy deserted the place, a new, poorer population settled there.

In 1672, the Louvre Palace construction was taken over by (artists') academies. In addition to the Academies which were based there, the Louvre was the home of the artists themselves who moved in freely. The Louvre thus deteriorated little by little, soon provoking reactions from contemporary thinkers.

In the 1750s, under Louis XV, the Marquis de Marigny, brother of his mistress Madame de Pompadour, had repair and consolidation work done. The Seven Years' War1756 à 1763) interrupted the work for the first time in 1759. They started again after the peace, but the stop is definitive until 1779.

With the accession of the Count of Angiviller to the Superintendency, the Louvre Palace construction regained a certain fortune. The idea of creating a museum in the Louvre from the royal collections was taken up by the new superintendent. He also wanted to carry out appropriate improvements to the interior of the palace. This led to the problem of the Grande Galerie, about which Soufflot was commissioned to think about.

The Louvre Palace construction during the Revolution: birth of Le Louvre Museum

In 1789, the Count d'Angiviller had already proposed a museum in the Louvre Palace. Forced to resign, he entrusted it to the Etats Généraux (National assembly)l, which on June 21 adopted the idea. At this period the national collections were suddenly enriched by the confiscation of clergy property (November 2, 1789), the property of emigrants (August 8), and the abolition of the academies (August 8, 1792).

As early as 1790, the National Assembly became truly aware of the need to preserve the works, and to stop the massive destruction. On December 1, 1790, it created a commission charged with inventorying the monuments and works of art that had been nationalized.

Napoleon 1er and the Louvre Palace: continuation of the Grand Dessein

From the First Empire onwards, Napoleon 1st moved to live in the neighboring Tuileries Palace. Pierre Fontaine was appointed architect of the Louvre and Tuileries palaces on December 13, 1804. He will associate with Charles Percier.

Between 1805 and 1810, Fontaine and Percier worked on the completion of the Cour Carrée, respecting the style of the earlier buildings:

From 1809 to 1812, it was the construction of the grand staircase leading to the Louvre Museum. This grand staircase, a masterpiece of Napoleonic architecture, was later destroyed to build the Daru staircase. Part of the decoration of this staircase can be seen in the Percier and Fontaine rooms.

Paintings were also commissioned for interior decoration.

In 1810, Napoleon 1st accepted the plan of the Grand Dessein uniting the Louvre and Tuileries palaces, proposed by Fontaine and Percier. The neighborhood between the Louvre and the Tuileries was therefore razed to the ground, including the Saint-Louis-du-Louvres church, in 1811.

The Louvre Palace construction under the Restoration

After the fall of the First Empire (1815), the work was still directed by the architects Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine, under the supervision of the museum management, under the Count of Forbin. Louis XVIII and Charles X wanted to restore the palace's luster and public utility.

Louis XVIII had the Napoleon 1st wing along the Rue de Rivoli completed by the Pavillon de Rohan and the decoration of the Cour Carrée.

However, most of the work done on the Louvre palace during the Restoration was interior design.

The Second Republic and the completion of the Louvre Palace construction

The national palaces are attached to the civil list of the prince-president Louis Napoleon Bonaparte on January 14, 1852. The General Council of Buildings met between February 26 and March 1, 1852.

Visconti's project was approved. He was to take charge of the organization of the construction site for the Louvre and Tuileries Palaces from March 12. On March 14, he asked for the creation of a works agency and premises. On May 8, a decree decides that the new palace must be built within five years with a budget of 25 million francs. The agency was created by a decree of the Minister of State on May 26.

Napoleon III and the Louvre: completion of the Grand Design

On March 8, 1853, Napoleon III decides to organize the Universal Exhibition of 1855 in Paris. He asked that the shell of the new Louvre Palace be completed at the beginning of the exhibition.

On February 13, 1854, Hector-Martin Lefuel, architect of the Palais de Fontainebleau, was appointed architect in charge of directing the works for the reunion and completion of the Louvre. He was to complete the work of the previous centuries, finally bringing the Louvre and the Tuileries together.

He completed the wing of the Rue de Rivoli, designed under Napoleon 1st to be symmetrical to the waterfront gallery. It was itself modified and now houses the grand staircase, the main access to the museum's galleries until the transformations at the end of the 20th century.

The pavilions surrounding the present pyramid courtyard and delimiting four interior courtyards were also built. The structural work was practically completed at the beginning of 1855. The Louvre Palace was completed and inaugurated by Napoleon III on August 14, 1857.

The Third Republic and the destruction of the Tuileries Palace

 

Tragic events of the Commune, in 1871, led to the burning of the Tuileries Palace, built under Catherine de Medici in the 16th century. The north wing of the Louvre also burnt. The new Republican government charged Lefuel with rebuilding the Marsan pavilion on the model of what he had already done at the Pavillon de Flore, as well as part of the Rohan wing.

This work was carried out between 1874 and 1880, but lack of money prevented Lefuel from building a counterpart to the Sessions pavilion. The project was to house a theater, as well as the large ticket offices in the north, similar to those already built in the south.

The Tuileries Palace remained in ruins for twelve years and was never re-built. Of course, there were plans to rebuild a building that would recall the proportions of the vanished Tuileries Palace to house a museum of modern art, but political instability persisted and postponed any decision.

In 1963, the Minister of Culture, André Malraux, decided to recreate the eastern ditches of the Louvre in front of Perrault's colonnade, to raze the gardens and remove the railings. This project did not correspond to a historical project and helped to detach the palace from the city to enhance it.

Contemporary times: the Grand Louvre

From 1981 to 1999, the palace underwent major modernization work, known as the Grand Louvre. It consisted in restoring the entire Louvre Palace to its museum function (until 1989, part of it also housed the Ministry of Finance) and is characterized by the construction of the glass pyramid (inaugurated on March 30, 1989). The "Pyramide", located in the middle of the Cour Napoléon, is the work of the Sino-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei. It leads to a large underground reception hall. A lead copy of the Equestrian Statue of Louis XIV in the guise of Marcus Curtius by Le Bernin et Girardon was then added.

The construction and fitting out work led to the discovery of important remains of the medieval fortress, which have been included in the museum's visitor offer.

Today the palace is home to :

  • the Louvre museum (for additional information click on the Louvre Museum),
  • Les Arts décoratifs and its collections (decorative arts, fashion and textiles and the Musée de la Publicité, located next door (Advertising collections, library and the "ateliers du Carrousel")
  • the École du Louvre for Arts (Rohan and Flore sites),
  • the Centre de recherche et de restauration des musées de France (C2RMF): Carrousel laboratory and Flore workshops to restaure pieces of arts of french or international museum,
  • the shopping galleries of the Carrousel du Louvre: 16,000 square meters, more than 50 boutiques,
  • the "Carrousel du Louvre exhibition space" at Paris Expo: 7,100 square meters, 4 rooms designed to host prestigious events.
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Open hours today: 9:00 am - 9:45 pm
  • Monday

    9:00 am - 6:00 pm

  • Tuesday

    Closed

  • Wednesday

    9:00 am - 6:00 pm

  • Thursday

    9:00 am - 6:00 pm

  • Friday

    9:00 am - 9:45 pm

  • Saturday

    9:00 am - 6:00 pm

  • Sunday

    9:00 am - 6:00 am

  • July 12, 2024 7:21 am local time

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