Luxembourg Palace

The Luxembourg Palace (French: Palais du Luxembourg, pronounced: ) in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, north of the Luxembourg Garden (French: Jardin du Luxembourg), is the seat of the French Senate.

The formal Luxembourg Garden (French: Jardin du Luxembourg) presents a 25-hectare green parterre of gravel and lawn populated with statues and provided with large basins of water where children sail model boats. In the southwest corner, there is an orchard of apple and pear trees and the théâtre des marionnettes (puppet theatre).


The palace was built for Marie de Médicis, mother of king Louis XIII of France and of Gaston, duc d'Orléans, just near the site of an old hôtel particulier owned by François-Henri de Montmorency, duc de Piney-Luxembourg, hence its name (now called Petit Luxembourg, home of the president of French Senate). Marie de Médicis desired to make a building similar to her native Florence's Palazzo Pitti, and to this effect had the main architect Salomon de Brosse send architect Clément Metézeau‎ to Florence to obtain drawings. Marie de Médicis bought the structure and its fairly extensive domain in 1612 and commissioned the new building, which she referred to as her Palais Médicis, in 1615. Its construction and furnishing formed her major artistic project, though nothing remains today of the interiors as they were created for her, save some architectural fragments reassembled in the Salle du Livre d'Or. The suites of paintings she commissioned, in the subjects of which she expressed her requirements through her agents and advisors, are scattered among museums.

A series of twenty-four triumphant canvases were commissioned from Peter Paul Rubens. A series of paintings executed for her Cabinet doré ("gilded study") was identified by Anthony Blunt in 1967. To the right of the block of the Luxembourg, erected at the same time, was the mass of the Palais du Petit-Luxembourg (see below).

Marie de Médicis installed her household in 1625, while work on interiors continued. The apartments to one side were reserved for the Queen and the matching suite on the other for her son, Louis XIII (floor plan). Construction was finished in 1631; the Queen Mother was forced from court shortly after, following the "Day of the Dupes" in November 1631. Louis XIII commissioned further decorations for the Palace from Nicolas Poussin and Philippe de Champaigne.

In 1642, Marie bequeathed the Luxembourg to her second and favourite son, Gaston d'Orléans. Upon Gaston's death, the palace passed to his widow, Marguerite de Lorraine, then to his elder daughter by his first marriage, Anne, duchesse de Montpensier, La Grande Mademoiselle. In 1660, Anne de Montpensier sold the Luxembourg to her younger half-sister, Élisabeth Marguerite d'Orléans, duchesse de Guise who, in turn, gave it to her cousin, king Louis XIV, in 1694.

In 1750, the palace became a museum—the forerunner of the Louvre—, and was open two days a week until 1779. In 1778, the palace was given to the comte de Provence by his brother Louis XVI. During the French Revolution, it was briefly a prison, then the seat of the French Directory and later the first residence of Napoleon Bonaparte, as First Consul of the French Republic. It has continued its senatorial role, with brief interruptions, ever since.

In the nineteenth century, the palace was extensively remodeled, with a new garden façade by Alphonse de Gisors (1836–1841), and a cycle of paintings (1845–1847) by Eugène Delacroix that was added to the library.

During the German occupation of Paris (1940–1944), Hermann Göring took over the palace as the headquarters of the Luftwaffe in France, taking for himself a sumptuous suite of rooms to accommodate his visits to the French capital.

His subordinate, Luftwaffe Field Marshal Hugo Sperrle, was also given an apartment in the Luxembourg palace, and spent most of the war enjoying the luxurious surroundings. "The Field Marshal's craving for luxury and public display ran a close second to that of his superior, Goering; he was also his match in corpulence," wrote armaments minister Albert Speer after a visit to Sperrle in Paris.

The palace was a designated "strong point" for German forces defending the city in August 1944, but thanks to the decision of Commanding General Dietrich von Choltitz to surrender the city rather than fight, the palace was only minimally damaged.

From 29 July to 15 October 1946, the Luxembourg Palace was the site of the talks of Paris Peace Conference.

The Petit-Luxembourg

To the west of the Luxembourg, and communicating with it through interior courts, the sixteenth-century original hôtel of the duc de Piney-Luxembourg was rebuilt during the same years, the smaller palace now called the Petit-Luxembourg; it is composed of two main blocks, or corps de logis separated by a courtyard that is entered through a grand convex portal flanked by Tuscan columns. Since 1958, the Petit-Luxembourg has been the official residence of the President of the French Senate (président du Sénat) .

Marie de Médicis passed it to the Cardinal de Richelieu, who occupied it while his own grand palace, the Palais-Cardinal, (which became the Palais-Royal after Richelieu deeded it to the Crown), was constructed in the rue Saint-Honoré. Once there, he ceded the Petit-Luxembourg to his niece the duchesse d'Aiguillon. By inheritance it passed to Henry III Jules de Bourbon, prince de Condé, whose widow Anne, princesse palatine de Bavière, made it the habitual residence of her widowhood, making adjustments to suit her status that included the grand staircase and salon by Germain Boffrand (1709–1713) and adding another hôtel for her household, with her kitchens and stables, on the other side of rue de Vaugirard; an underground passage linked the two residences.

Under Napoleon, the Council of State was seated at the Petit-Luxembourg from 25 December 1799.

Gallery of interiors
  • Grand Salon

  • Installation of the Conseil d'Etat, 25 December 1799, by Louis-Charles-Auguste Couder, 1856

Gallery of residents
  • Cardinal Richelieu

  • Coronation of Marie de' Medici in Saint-Denis (detail), by Peter Paul Rubens, 1622–1625 (one of the famous series of paintings Marie de Médicis had commissioned for the palace that she built)

  • Gaston, Duke of Orléans in 1634, who lived at the palais for a while after his exile to Blois

  • Anne, Duchess of Montpensier who lived here with her father Gaston d'Orléans

  • Marie Louise Élisabeth d'Orléans who lived here after the death of her husband

  • Louise Élisabeth d'Orléans (she died here in 1742 after her failed marriage to the King of Spain)

  • Louis XVIII of France lived here while he was still Monsieur in the reign of his brother Louis XVI

Building Activity

  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings added a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via