Built for Louis XIV by Jules Hardouin-Mansart from 1679 onwards to house the Main and Minor Stables, the splitting into two responded to the needs of the Royal Mews service, whose numbers at the time are estimated at nearly 1500 people. The twin buildings are placed prominently in front of the château, wedged between the three avenues of the patte-d'oie [triangular road junction] that Le Nôtre had outlined a few years prior. Dotted by arcades and punctuated by a richly sculpted and decorated avant-corps, their curved heights inspired numerous equestrian architectures, from the Chantilly stables built at the beginning of the following century to those of the Alma which were moved to Paris for Napoleon III.
Against a backdrop of castles and places of power and representation, equestrian architecture underwent the most significant historical developments from the artistic and technical point of view.
The king's first architect paid close attention to distribution and relegated the equestrian activities to the rear of the two, semicircular yards visible from the palace and treated as performance spaces. Around the rectangular riding area of the Main Stable to the north and the circular indoor riding arena of the minor stable to the south, he forged wings for housing horses and the paths required for the service.
Upon completion in 1683, the Versailles complex could accommodate over seven hundred horses and had over thirty carriage buildings, which in spite of their considerable size did not suffice to cover needs. Despite their steepness, these stables have always been known for their comfort, still witnessed by their continued use until nowadays. At the end of the 18th century, the famous French architect Jacques-François Blondel considered them to be "masterpieces of this genre."
Massounie Dominique, "Le logement des chevaux aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles : Paris, Maisons, Versailles et les recommandations des architectes au XVIIIe siècle" [Horse Accommodation in the 17th and 18th centuries: Paris, Mansions, Versailles and the Recommendations of Architects in the 18th century]. In: Livraisons d'histoire de l'architecture. n°6, 2e semestre 2003. pp. 69-86.www.persee.fr