VERSAILLES, France — Just over 109 years ago a man named Weill Martignan had an idea to build a luxury hotel on the edge of the gardens of Louis XIV's palace. He registered the company as "Trianon," named after the king's Grand Trianon a stone's throw from the site of the palatial hotel.
A hundred years hardly feels like history in a country of kings and grand palaces, particularly Versailles, where Louis XIV ruled in the late 1600s, and Marie-Antoinette walked the grounds prior to her early death in 1793 at age 37, claimed by the French Revolution and some say her own indiscretions.
But history is present here at Trianon Palace Versailles, now a Waldorf Astoria hotel that has played a role in two world wars, hosting both defenders and aggressors over the years and one famous architect of peace.
According to the history of the hotel, as described in its literature:
"The Allied Forces based its Supreme War Council in the hotel in April 1917; its object was to bring the disastrous war to an end.
"On May 7, 1919, in the reception salon that still bears his name, Georges Clemenceau dictated the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. It was signed several days later in the Hall of Mirrors in the palace Versailles."
In WWII, members of the Royal Air Force made their base here, but it would be replaced by the German Luftwaffe when the Germans occupied France. The Americans had their turn at the hotel, using it in 1944 to host generals working to bring the European theater of war to an end.
Peace ultimately returned to these grounds and its peaceful gardens now serve as a home base for visitors to this Versailles countryside.
Fast forward to April 2017 and a week of events that will find its way into history books.
This week the hotel played host to, among others, a few of the dignitaries who arrived to take part in a welcoming reception and media introduction to the Paris France Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Temple preparations included an 11th-hour planting of flowers by youthful volunteers and missionaries. It was affectionately referred to the next day as "The Miracle of the Flowers" by a few of those in charge of organizing the event, as hundreds of flowers were planted to make this place just a little bit better, just a bit more peaceful.
But this week also brought horrible violence to the world. A few days before in Syria, chemical death rained down from the sky. As reported in the New York Times:
"One of the worst chemical bombings in Syria turned a northern rebel-held area into a toxic kill zone on Tuesday, inciting international outrage over the ever-increasing government impunity shown in the country’s six-year war."
Days later in Stockholm, Sweden, a man took a beer truck and plowed into pedestrians, killing four and injuring a dozen others. It was eerily similar to the March 22 attack on Westminster Bridge in London, when a man plowed through a crowd in a vehicle, killing West Bountiful resident Kurt Cochran, 54, and injuring his wife Melissa. Many others were killed or injured in the carnage.
Melissa's parents were spending their days at the LDS Church's London England Temple, serving as missionaries when their visiting children came to London to see them as part of a 25th wedding anniversary tour of Europe.
At the beginning of this week, after a memorial service at Westminster Abbey, Melissa Cochran told the BBC the following:
"I don't feel any ill will toward him," she said of the man who took her husband's life. "I don't know what he was feeling or thinking or anything that had been going on in his life. So I can't relate.
"I just know that unfortunately he didn't have the qualities or the beautiful heart that my husband had, so I actually kind of feel a little sorry for him. No hate."
Creating "a beautiful heart" is part of the reason peaceful places exist. The carnage in London took place on a bridge. The reconciliation took place in a church. At places like the London temple, where Melissa's parents serve, or at the new Paris temple and its open courtyard, people will gather in search of peace and understanding.
The Gardens of Versailles do that now, as do the smaller gardens of a hotel that's played host to both the good and the bad.
Bishop Gérald Caussé, a Frenchman and general authority of the LDS Church, called the Paris France Temple and its grounds "a peaceful, restful place."
Mitt Romney during the welcoming reception Thursday called it a place where all can be recognized as children of God, and in the world we live in, he said it's needed more than ever.
Bishop Caussé said his family has a photo of him as a 4-year-old boy sitting on the knee of Romney when the former governor and U.S. presidential candidate served as a missionary in France in the later 1960s. Perhaps neither could have imagined being together again on this day, so many years later, still engaged in the cause of peace.6 comments on this story
It's about a 10-minute walk south from the Trianon hotel to the Palace of Versailles, passing dozens of statues honoring people who made history in France, and into the Hall of Mirrors where the peace treaty was signed. It is also about a 10-minute walk north from the hotel to the new LDS temple, passing the homes and workplaces of the people of Versailles and Le Chesnay, and ending at a site with a single statue.
The commemoration in the Hall of Mirrors changed the world. The simple event at the new Paris temple brings the promise of changing individual lives.
The lone statue at the temple is of Jesus Christ, known to Christians throughout the world as the Prince of Peace.
Said Elder Neil L. Andersen of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, here you can "feel his spirit and his influence."
Regardless of faith, the search for "a beautiful heart' in places like this is worthy of historical note.