The Louvre or the Louvre Museum is one of the world’s largest museums and a historic monument. The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum.
The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. The museum opened on the 10th of August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property.
Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The Louvre Palace was altered frequently throughout the middle Ages. In the 14th century, Charles V converted the building into a residence and in 1546; Francis I renovated the site in French Renaissance style.
Francis acquired what would become the nucleus of the Louvre’s holdings, his acquisitions including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. After Louis XIV chose Versailles as his residence in 1682, constructions slowed; however, the move permitted the Louvre to be used as a residence for artists.
During World War II the museum removed most of the art and hid valuable pieces. When Germany occupied the Sudetenland, many important artworks such as the Mona Lisa were temporarily moved to the Château de Chambord.
When war was formally declared a year later, most of the museum’s paintings were sent there as well. Select sculptures such as Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo were sent to the Château de Valençay.
On the 27th of August 1939, after two days of packing, truck convoys began to leave Paris. According to Serge Klarsfeld, since the now complete and constant publicity which the artworks got in 1996, the majority of the French Jewish community is nevertheless in favor of the return to the normal French civil rule of prescription acquisitive of any unclaimed good after another long period of time and consequently to their ultimate integration into the common French heritage instead of their transfer to foreign institutions like during World War II.
In 1190, a rampart was built around Paris, which was Europe’s biggest city at the time. After the death of Charles VI, the Louvre slumbered for a century until 1527, when François I decided to take up residence in Paris.
The Grosse Tour (the medieval keep) was demolished, affording still more light and space. The medieval west wing was demolished and replaced with Renaissance-style buildings designed by Pierre Lescot and decorated by Jean Goujon.
The work begun under François I was completed by Henri II, who created the Salle des Caryatides (Hall of the Caryatids) on the ground floor and built a new wing following the demolition of the castle’s medieval south wing. The Pavillon du Roi (King’s Pavilion) was built at the junction of the new buildings and housed the king’s private apartments on the first floor.
In 1993, on the museum’s 200th anniversary, the rebuilt Richelieu wing, formerly occupied by France’s Ministry of Finance, was opened; for the first time, the entire Louvre was devoted to museum purposes.
The new wing, also designed by Pei, had more than 230,000 square feet (21,368 square metres) of exhibition space, originally housing collections of European painting, decorative arts, and Islamic art. Three glass-roofed interior courtyards displayed French sculpture and ancient Assyrian artworks.