Les Invalides

Paris, France

Les Invalides is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building's original purpose. The buildings house the Musée de l'Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d'Histoire Contemporaine, as well as the burial site for some of France's war heroes, notably Napoleon Bonaparte.

Louis XIV initiated the project in 1670, as a home and hospital for aged and unwell soldiers: the name is a shortened form of hôpital des invalides. The architect of Les Invalides was Libéral Bruant. The enlarged project was completed in 1676, the river front measured 196 metres and the complex had fifteen courtyards. Jules Hardouin Mansart assisted the aged Bruant, and the chapel was finished in 1679 to Bruant's designs after the elder architect's death.

Shortly after the veterans' chapel was completed, Louis XIV commissioned Mansart to construct a separate private royal chapel referred to as the Église du Dôme from its most striking feature. Inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the original for all Baroque domes, it is one of the triumphs of French Baroque architecture. The domed chapel is centrally placed to dominate the court of honour. It was finished in 1708.

Because of its location and significance, the Invalides served as the scene for several key events in French history. On 14 July 1789 it was stormed by Parisian rioters who seized the cannons and muskets stored in its cellars to use against the Bastille later the same day. Napoleon was entombed under the dome of the Invalides with great ceremony in 1840. In December 1894 the degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus was held before the main building, while his subsequent rehabilitation ceremony took place in a courtyard of the complex in 1906.

The building retained its primary function of a retirement home and hospital for military veterans until the early twentieth century. In 1872 the musée d'artillerie (Artillery Museum) was located within the building to be joined by the Historical Museum of the Armies in 1896. The two institutions were merged to form the present musée de l'armée in 1905. At the same time the veterans in residence were dispersed to smaller centres outside Paris. The reason was that the adoption of a mainly conscript army, after 1872, meant a substantial reduction in the numbers of veterans having the twenty or more years of military service formerly required to enter the Hôpital des Invalides. The building accordingly became too large for its original purpose. The modern complex does however still include the facilities detailed below for about a hundred elderly or incapacitated former soldiers.

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Details

Founded: 1670
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in France

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Ian McPherson (4 months ago)
Would have loved more time here. Only managed a quick hour to walk around Napoleon's tomb. Well worth half a day if you have time in Paris.
Natalia Quintero (4 months ago)
The Napoleon tomb is impressive. The museum, it was very empty, no tourists at all, no one asked us for our tickets, they got a lot of cool historical stuff (the armor from the waterloo soldier who got a cannon ball) but it feels kind of abandoned. It's a must if you love history tho.
Juraj Kubica (5 months ago)
The monument is going through a thorough cleaning and restoration and now it looks like a new. I was absorbed by the installations in the museum. E.g. the peace talks after the World War I were unknown to me and the exhibition was very informative and innovative in the presentation format. Also, I want to mention the large models of military bases on the top floor, where the visitor can use the augmented reality masks to see more than just the physical models.
Tennille Sanders (5 months ago)
We really loved this museum! The tomb of Napoleon is simply stunning. Such a beautiful monument to the victors and military leaders of France. Highly recommend and well worth visiting. Make sure to go downstairs to the tomb the stairs are hidden behind the high alter but so lovely to gaze up at the ceiling with the tomb in view. Added bonus is this is a relatively quiet museum so you can enjoy without the crowds.
Craig Priddle (5 months ago)
The tomb of Napoleon and the Army Museum, both within Les Invalides, are wonderful. The tomb is magnificent and make sure you look in all directions including up and down when you visit. The Army Museum is wonderful with a massive collection of arms and uniforms. Most of the text associated with the exhibits has a small amount of English. Some exhibits have full translations available, so that is very good. Most visitors are French. If you feel like visiting an uncrowded venue in a very crowded Paris, this is the place.
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