AskDefine | Define palatial

Dictionary Definition

palatial adj
1 relating to or being a palace; "the palatial residence"
2 suitable for or like a palace; "palatial furnishings"; "a palatial yacht"

User Contributed Dictionary



From Latin: palātium, palace+al




  1. Of or relating to a palace.
  2. On a grand scale; very rich furnishing(s).
    • The home where he lived was palatial.

Related terms

Extensive Definition

A palace is a grand residence, especially the home of a head of state or some other high-ranking public figure. In many European countries, such as France and Italy (but not Britain), the term is also applied to large (but not necessarily very large) urban buildings built as the private mansions of the aristocracy. Many historic palaces are now put to other uses such as parliaments, museums, hotels or office buildings. The difference between the English usage and that of most of Europe is that there a palace must be urban; in English it is the status of the owner rather than the location which defines a palace. The word is also sometimes used to describe a lavish public building which was never a residence; this use may be intended to convey that the building is a "people's palace", where a sort of civic consciousness resides.


Historians apply the term "palace" anachronistically, to label the complex structures of Minoan Knossos, or the Mycenaean palace societies, or the 4th century B.C. Macedonian palace system of Philip of Macedon's Pella— or palaces outside Europe entirely.
The word "palace" comes from the name of one of the seven hills of Rome, the Palatine Hill. The original 'palaces' on the Palatine Hill were the seat of the imperial power, while the capitol on the Capitoline Hill was the seat of the senate and the religious nucleus of Rome. Long after the city grew to the seven hills the Palatine remained a desirable residential area. Emperor Augustus Caesar lived there in a purposely modest house only set apart from his neighbors by the two laurel trees planted to flank the front door as a sign of triumph granted by the Senate. His descendants, especially Nero, with his "Golden House" enlarged the house and grounds over and over until it took up the hill top. The word Palatium came to mean the residence of the emperor rather than the neighbourhood on top of the hill.

Palaces elsewhere

"Palace" meaning "government" can be recognized in a remark of Paul the Deacon, writing ca 790 and describing events of the 660s: "When Grimuald set out for Beneventum, he entrusted his palace to Lupus" (Historia gentis Langobardorum, V.xvii). At the same time Charlemagne was consciously reviving the Roman expression in his "palace" at Aachen, of which only his chapel remains. In the 9th century the "palace" indicated the housing of the government too, and the constantly-travelling Charlemagne built fourteen. In the early Middle Ages, the Palas remained the seat of government in some German cities. In the Holy Roman Empire the powerful independent Electors came to be housed in palaces (Paläste). This has been used as evidence that power was widely distributed in the Empire, as in more centralized monarchies, only one supreme monarch would be allowed to call their home a palace.

England / UK

In England, by tacit agreement, there have been no "palaces" other than those used as official residences by royalty and bishops, regardless of whether located in town or country. However, not all palaces use the term in their name - see Holyrood House. Thus the Palace of Beaulieu gained its name precisely when Thomas Boleyn sold it to Henry VIII in 1517; previously it had been known as Walkfares. But like several other palaces, the name stuck even once the royal connection ended. Blenheim Palace was built, on a different site, in the grounds of the disused royal Palace of Woodstock, and the name was also part of the extraordinary honour when the house was given by a grateful nation to a great general. (Along with several royal and episcopal palaces in the countryside, Blenheim does demonstrate that "palace" has no specific urban connotations in English.)


In France there has been a clear distinction between a château and a palais. The palace has always been urban, like the Palais de la Cité in Paris, which was the royal palace of France and is now the supreme court of justice of France, or the palace of the Popes at Avignon.
The château, by contrast, has always been in rural settings, supported by its demesne, even when it was no longer actually fortified. Speakers of English think of the "Palace of Versailles" because it was the residence of the king of France, and the king was the source of power, though the building has always remained the Château de Versailles for the French, and the seat of government under the ancien regime remained the Palais du Louvre. The Louvre had begun as a fortified Château du Louvre on the edge of Paris, but as the seat of government and shorn of its fortified architecture and then completely surrounded by the city, it developed into the Palais du Louvre.
The townhouses of the aristocracy were also palais, although only if fairly grand - the entry level being set rather higher than in Italy. The Hôtel particulier was the term for less grandiose residences. Bishops always had a palais in the town, however their country homes were chateaux.
The usage is essentially the same in Italy, Spain and Portugal, as well as the former Austrian Empire. In Germany, the wider term was a relatively recent importation, and was used rather more restrictively.


In Italy, any urban building built as a grand residence is a palazzo; these are often no larger than a Victorian townhouse. It was not necessary to be a nobleman to have your house considered a palazzo; the hundreds of palazzi in Venice nearly all belonged to the patrician class of the city. In the Middle Ages these also functioned as warehouses and places of business, as well as homes. Each family's palazzo was a hive that contained all the family members, though it might not always show a grand architectural public front. In the 20th century palazzo in Italian came to apply by extension to any large fine apartment building, as so many old palazzi were converted to this use.
Bishop's townhouses were always palazzi, and the seat of a localized regime would also be so called. Many a small former capital displays its Palazzo Ducale, the seat of government. In Florence and other strong communal governments, the seat of government was the Palazzo della Signoria until in Florence the Medici were made Grand Dukes of Tuscany. Then, when the power center shifted to their residence in Palazzo Pitti, the old center of power began to be called the Palazzo Vecchio.

The Americas

In the Americas, the Aztec Emperors built many palaces, some of which may still be seen. Also in Mexico is Chapultepec Palace located in the middle of Chapultepec Park in Mexico City. It currently houses the Mexican National Museum of History. It is the only castle in North America that was occupied by European sovereigns - Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico and his consort, Empress Carlota. The National Palace, first built in 1563, is located in the heart of the Mexican capital.


On the continent, these royal and episcopal palaces were not merely residences; the clerks who administered the realm or the diocese labored there as well. (To this day many bishops' palaces house both their family apartments and their official offices.) However, unlike the "Palais du Justice" which is often encountered in the French-speaking world, modern British public administration buildings are never called "palaces"; although the formal name for the "Houses of Parliament" is the Palace of Westminster, this reflects Westminster's former role as a royal residence and centre of administration.
In more recent years, the word has been used in a more informal sense for other large, impressive buildings, such as The Crystal Palace of 1851 (an immensely large, glazed hall erected for the Great Exhibition) and modern arenas-convention centers like Alexandra Palace (which is no more a palace than Madison Square Garden is a garden). The largest in the world is Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, Romania. Built during the socialist regime, no effort or expense was spared to raise this colossal neo-classic building.
''For the household staff of palaces, see great house.


See also

Some famous Palaces

palatial in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Палац (пабудова)
palatial in Breton: Palez
palatial in Bulgarian: Дворец
palatial in Catalan: Palau (arquitectura)
palatial in Czech: Palác
palatial in German: Palast
palatial in Spanish: Palacio
palatial in Esperanto: Palaco
palatial in French: Palais
palatial in Korean: 궁전
palatial in Indonesian: Istana
palatial in Hebrew: ארמון
palatial in Lithuanian: Rūmai
palatial in Dutch: Paleis
palatial in Japanese: 宮殿
palatial in Norwegian: Palass
palatial in Polish: Pałac
palatial in Portuguese: Palácio
palatial in Romanian: Palat
palatial in Russian: Дворец
palatial in Simple English: Palace
palatial in Slovak: Palác (reprezentatívna budova)
palatial in Serbian: Дворац
palatial in Finnish: Palatsi
palatial in Swedish: Palats
palatial in Tamil: அரண்மனை
palatial in Thai: วัง
palatial in Vietnamese: Cung điện
palatial in Ukrainian: Палац
palatial in Chinese: 宮殿

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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