The Opening of the Louvre

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The famous Louvre Museum in Paris was established in 1793. The building itself is much older, having been built in the 13th Century as a fortress, complete with towers for defending troops and dungeons for holding prisoners.

In 1527, King Francis I razed the original building and started construction on what we know as the Louvre Museum.

Beginning with the reign of Charles V, the Louvre became a place to store works of art. It contained Charles's private collection of books and artworks. Subsequent monarchs added more and more; and by the reign of Louis XIV, in 1715, the collection numbered 2,500.

The original idea of the Louvre was as a collection of artwork to be viewed only by the King and his Court. Visitors could view the art, of course, but such a practice wasn't popular or prudent1 in the days of absolute monarchs like Louis XIV and Louis XVI. It took the French Revolution to open the doors of the Louvre to the public, and open they did in 1793.

Today, the grand museum contains more than 300,000 works of art, although not all are on display at once. It includes works from thousands of years, from ancient civilizations (like Egypt, Greece, Rome, and China) to the first half of the 19th Century. The Renaissance is included, of course, with paintings by Leonardo (like the Mona Lisa, right) and Raphael. Also on display are famous sculptures, like the Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace (left).

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