The origin of the Louvre goes back to the end of the 12th century, when Philippe Auguste, before leaving for the Third Crusade, had a fortress built near the river to defend Paris from the incursions of the Saxons ( in fact the name Louvre seems to derive from the Saxon word “leovar”, meaning “fortified dwelling” ): this original nucleus occupied about a quarter of the present-day Cour Carree. The king continued to live on the Cite so that the fortress was used to contain the Treasury and the archives. In the 14th century, Charles V knows as Charles the Wise decided to make it his residence and had the famous Library constructed.
But the kings did not live in the Louvre again until 1536, when Francois I, after having the old fortress knocked down, erected on its foundations a palace more in keeping with Renaissance tastes. Work proceeded under Henri II and Catherine de Medici, who gave Philibert Delorme the task of constructing the Tuileries Palace and uniting it to the Louvre using an arm stretching out towards the Seine.
The modifications and extensions to the palace continued under Henri IV, who had the Pavilion de Flore constructed, and under Louis XIII and Louis XIV, who completed the Cour Carree and had the western facade with the Colonnade erected. In 1682, when the royal court was transferred to Versailles, work was virtually abandoned and the palace fell into such a state of ruin that in 1750 its demolition was even contemplated.
But work on the palace, suspended during the Revolution, was resumed by Napoleon I: his architects, Percier and Fontaine, began building the north wing, finished in 1852 by Napoleon III, who finally decided to complete the Louvre. During the period of the Commune, in May 1871, the Tuileries Palace was burnt down and the Louvre assumed its present appearance. After the important Library of Charles, the Wise had been dispersed, it was Francois I who, in the 16th century, first began an art collection. This was considerably enlarged under Louis XIII and Louis XIV, so much so that by the death of the latter the Louvre was already used regularly for exhibitions of paintings and sculptures. On 10 August 1793 it was opened to the public and its gallery thus finally became a museum. From then on, the collection was continually enlarged: Napoleon I went so far as to demand a tribute in works of art from the nations he conquered.
The objects listed in the museum’s catalog today are subdivided into various sections: from ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman to Oriental works, from medieval to modern sculpture, and from the objects of art such as those belonging to the Royal Treasury to the immense collections of paintings.