Dômes - Hôtel des Invalides, Paris
The Invalides complex has a total of 15 courtyards. The largest and most important one is the main courtyard ( cour d'honneur) In a way this sort of reminded me of the Escorial in Spain. Perhaps it is no accident. Louis XIV was married to a Spanish princess, Anne, the daughter of Phillip III of Spain, whose father built the Escorial. Perhaps the similarity ends there, the functions of the two buildings were vastly different.
In the center of the doorway you will notice the large statue of Napoleon Bonaparte. I found it interesting the outsize presence of Napoleon was here, after all he was the first major commander of a united army on a grander scale than had ever occurred.
To me the most enjoyable part of the museum was this outstanding museum, the Museum of the Army, one of the largest military museums in the world with an outstanding (and huge) collection. The two main collections here are the medieval and the modern.
The medieval part of the collection was the most interesting to me. It traced the development of arms and warfare from the 13th to the 15th century. Particularly interesting to me were the suits of armor and the amazing collection of swords and lances. The Royal Room has an exquisite collection of arms and armor from the Royal Family. The Louis XIII room shows the arms and armament of major French military men from Francis I to Louis XIII.
The Modern collection gives a historical outline of the military from Louis XIV to Napoleon III (1643-1870). The time frame covered in this part of the museum is enormous as the historical events that occured during this time period. If you enjoy uniforms you will see a LOT of them here. Frankly I was less interested in this part than the medieval collection.
The Invalides, officially L'Hôtel national des Invalides, is now a huge complex that honors the French military. The Dome of the Invalides is recognizable anywhere but inside of this complex there is a treasure trove of things to see if you enjoy military museums. A word of warning though, give yourself plenty of time!
The Invalides was originally built by Louis XIV as a hospital, rehab/hostel/retirement home for veterans with at least 20 years of service It was originally built in 1670-76. The one church, Église Saint-Louis des Invalides, was built in 1679. Interestingly, attendence at daily mass was obligatory. Can you imagine the hassle of getting the up to 4,000 veterans in various states of wellness to mass at the same time!
The Invalides served its original function until 1905. By then the Museum of the Army (musee de l'armee) was formed, combining the Museum of the Army with the Museum of Artillery. Wtih universal conscription after 1872 there were fewer long term veterans (which was a condition required for admission into the Invalides) and hence the complex was far too large for its original function. The remaining veterans were moved to various establishments around Paris.
Visiting the Invalides will take you a few hours. The Invalides complex is covered by the Paris Museum card. Your admission ticket will give you access to the following:
Army Museum permanent collection
The Dome Church and Napoleon's Tomb
The Charles de Gaulle Monument
Museum of Relief Maps
Museum of the Order of the Liberation (renovation until 2014)
9.5 euro (7.5 reduced)
-you can get the reduced price if you visit after 5 pm (summer) and 4 pm (winter) and Tuesday nights.
-there are a large number of situations where you may get a free ticket, please consult their website.
Summer hours- 10 am- 6 pm
Winter hours- 10 am- 5 pm
As you come into the grand complex of the Hotel of the Invalides you will see the magnificent couer (main entrance) In it is a fabulous collection of artillery pieces. These were the result of the old Artillery Museum being taken in by the Museum of the Army back in 1871.
They had howitzers and heavier artillery, which honestly I didn't pay much attention to. Then they had the classical cannons. The most interesting (both visually and intellectually) was the collection of French classical cannons. These were decorated with a lot of heraldica, apparently that was even required at the time.
Hôtel des Invalides is a huge complex of 17th century structures built by Louis XIV as combination hospital and pension for injured or retired military personnel. It also has two impressive churches: Église du Dôme and Église St-Louis des Invalides.
The smaller and older of the two, Église St-Louis des Invalides, is a light and airy confection where recovering soldiers and elderly veterans housed in the dormitories worshipped. It was plundered of costly religious adornments and secularized during the French Revolution but revived under Napoleon I for bestowment ceremonies of the first Légion d'Honneur badges; the highest decoration in France. Today, the chapel honors military officers interred in a crypt below the sanctuary. Don't miss the gorgeous and very large organ high above the north end of the nave.
Adjoining the soldier's chapel - but separated by an ornate baldachin, altar and sheet of glass - is the somber and considerably more stately Dome Church. Not keen on mingling with masses, Louis had the Église du Dôme built exclusively for royal worship and as a future mausoleum for himself and his family. Didn't happen. Like its neighbor, Église St-Louis, this also became the final resting place of French military heroes; one in particular who draws the biggest crowd.
Napoleon I died in 1821 on the island of Saint Helena where he'd been exiled after his defeat at Waterloo. In 1840, King Louis Philippe I was granted approval from the British to have the remains exhumed and returned to France. This was carried out with much pomp and ceremony - although they weren't above prying open his multiple coffins and taking a peek to make sure it was him. According to this fascinating narrative (link below) the former emperor looked pretty good for being dead a couple of decades.
Upon being returned to French soil, he was given an elaborate funeral and placed in a side chapel of the church until a more grandiose crypt could be constructed. It took another 20 years to excavate and decorate the circular well directly under the gold-plated dome where his coffins - all 6 of them - lie encased in a massive sarcophagus of red, Russian porphyry. Around the tomb are a dozen winged figures symbolizing his military achievements. For company his son, Napoleon II, and two brothers, Joseph and Jerome, are buried in other areas of the church as well as WWI Marshall Ferdinand Foch, Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle - composer La Marseillaise - and many others.
Entrance to the churches is covered under the Paris Museum Pass as well as three other museums in the complex we didn't visit: Musée de l'Armée, Musée des Plans-Reliefs and Musée de l'ordre de la Libération. Otherwise, see the website for hours and ticket prices (click dropdown in upper right of the home page for multi-lingual translations.)
another for history and religion done to fame by Napoleon to care for his soldiers and he lies there too. It began on an idea of king Henri IV which the affaires serious to do several edits or orders from 1597 to 1606. He finally decides to put the invalides soldiers in two buildings, one the Christian charity of faubourg Saint Marceau ,and the house of one Lourcine ,where the installations today are a empty space next across from the church of Val de Grâce. Later Cardinal Richelieu,after the siege of La Rochelle in 1624 propose to king Louis XIII to follow the idea of Henri IV, creating an establishment for the invalides. He has them lodge at the château de Bicêtre , and creates an order in their favor under the commanderie de Saint Louis.
King Louis XIV approves the proposition of Louvois and his collaborators and on a decision done on April 25 1670 allows for the invalides soldiers cannot be the only recourse of the Church and takes responsability for their care. Louvois reaches out to the order of Mount Carmel founded in 1608 by Henri IV ,and together with the order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem already founded in the Holy Land, at the service of the lepers and sent to France when the kingdom latin of Jerusalem falls.Advised by Louvois, king Louis XIV will revive the order and gives them military gifts of heritage like that of Saint-Sépulcre, as well as the sick and lepers put together in the hospital , Hôtel-Dieu ,and other places of prayer such as was not insured by the edit or order of December 1672. Louvois takes charge and become the vicaire general of the order of grand masters, Charles de Nerestan. The money collected from Louvois efforts allows the king Louis XIV to finally create an royal institution for the invalides and house them in a mansion ,one of the most majestic of the kingdom. While the mansion is built the invalides are housed at a vast house or gite located in the rue du Cherche-Midi, not far from the Red Cross building ( Croix-Rouge).
king Louis XIV,that his mother and wife were Spanish princesses, was inspired in founding the Invalides on his maternal relative king Felipe II of Spain while founding the San Lorenzo del Escorial. This palace/monastery founded on the site where Saint Laurent was martyr. A the same time the INvalides as the Escorial has a honor reserve to a church, here evoque by Saint Louis, king of France (Louis IX) . So it is like this that inspired king Louis XIV,to do the Hotel des INvalides no like a hospital but ,also, a monastery.
The king call the priests of the Mission, congregation founded in 1633 by Saint Vincent de Paul ,and on which were given the service of the royal chapel of Versailles. A ruling was done that their obligations as priests to the chapel but also to render service to the invalides. This is the story, and now you know what is there.Cheers
On our way to STOP 3, the Bus took us pass a colossal complex known as the HOTEL DES INVALIDES.
We immediately decided we would alight at the next stop and have a look at this complex.
We were on the Les Cars Rouges Bus, so thought it would have a stop nearby, but this WAS NOT THE CASE!
The nearest stop was the previous [stop 2] or at the Louvre, [stop 3], quite a walk when you have problems walking. So we had to alight at stop 3 and walk back quite a long way.
The L'Open Tour hop on/off Bus, had its stop right there!
Louis XIV, the Sun King had this building built between the years 1671 - 1676, as accommodation for disabled, wounded, homeless and impoverished war veterans.
He declared to build "a royal hostel that would be large and spacious enough to house all officers, crippled, old and retired alike". The ‘pensioners‘ began arriving in 1674, before the building was completed in 1676. Up to 4,000 war veterans were housed here. I wondered what they thought when they saw this magnificent building, I bet they were goggle eyed!
A church was built and later became known as the Soldiers' church, as they were required to attend the daily mass here.
The Hotel des Invalides is now home to several museums:
One is a large military museum located on both sides of the cour d'honneur. It covers military history from the early Middle Ages to the second World War.
The Relief maps Museum displays detailed scale models of French fortresses and fortified cities, going back to the 17th century.
Lastly, the Museum de l'ordre de la Liberation is dedicated to the liberation of France in the Second World war and to its leader, general Charles de Gaulle.
1 Oct - 31 Mar: 10am to 5pm
1 Apr - 30 Sep: 10am to 6pm
Closed the first Monday of every month, and 1 Jan , 1 May, 1 Nov, 25 Dec.
How to Get There
RER: Invalides - line C
Metro: Line 8, Latour-Maubourg or Invalides
Metro: Line 13 Saint-François-Xavier or Invalides or Varenne
This building is recognized as one of the most prestigious monument in Paris.
If you are catching the same company Bus as I did, it is closer to alight at Stop 2. I have put a link to the map where all the stops are located.
Even if you are not going to visit any of the Museums at the Hotel Des Invalides, I suggest you enter the The Cour d'Honneur, the largest courtyard out of the 15 courtyards in the complex. The large courtyard, is surrounded by arcaded galleries and has many interesting sculpted garret-windows. They all are different.
It is in this square that great military parades and important weddings took place.. You can walk around and see paintings and the doors to the old dormitories and many statues of important Military People
As you enter the courtyard and look towards the church and the dome, you will see a bronze statue of Napoleon Bonaparte standing on the second story, you would swear he is still looking over his troops!
Remember to look up where-ever you walk around this complex, as there are many wonderful carvings and statues.
I thought this was a very impressive Church.
The dome was built between 1679 and 1706, it magnificently crowns the building.
It is recognized as the finest dome ever built in France. In 1989, 12 kilos of gold was used to regild the Dome for the bicentenary of the French Revolution.
The beautiful facade has Greek columns, statues of Charlemagne and St. Louis decorate the niches of the lower levels and on the level above stand Strength, Justice and Temperance with Prudence.
You can visit inside, IT IS NOT FREE.
Beneath the dome is the recently restored large fresco depicting St Louis handing his sword to Christ. The Dome Church is a Military burial place where you find the tombs of Joseph and Jerome Bonaparte. In the crypt itself, is the tomb of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte I.
The tombs of several other military leaders like Turenne, Vauban and marshall Foch are in this Church.
The Dome is closed every first Monday of each month.
Open from April 1st to September 30th 10am to 6pm
June 15th and September 1st from 10am to 7pm.
Open on those public holidays :
Easter | Easter Monday | 8 May | Ascension Day | Whitsuntide | Whit Monday | 14 July | 15 August | 11 November
Independant tour : 7 Euros.
Same ticket as for the rest of the Hotel des Invalides.
5 Euros for students under 26yrs, seniors groups (15 persons minimum over 60yrs), retired soldiers.
HOW TO GET HERE....
District : Saint-Germain-des-Prés / Musée d'Orsay / Montparnasse
METRO...La Tour-Maubourg Varenne Invalides
RER : Invalides
Bus : 82, 92
On the top floor of one wing of Les Invalides there is an unusual museum showing twenty-eight large relief-map models that were made starting in the seventeen century showing fortifications and fortified towns at a scale of 1:600. The earliest of these was made on orders of King Louis XIV in 1668.
The relief maps were intended for use in planning military strategy in case of a siege or battle in one of these areas.
The museum has preserved 260 of these elaborate models, which were made between 1668 and 1873, though for reasons of space only twenty-eight are on public display. The lighting is purposely very subdued in order to protect the exhibits.
Next review from June 2012: Le Recrutement
Although this department of the Army Museum is entitled “The Two World Wars”, it actually starts in 1871 with the defeat of the French army in the Franco-Prussian war. Several large paintings show soldiers dying in agony on the battlefield in that war. A text panel explains that this sort of painting was popular among French civilians but not in military circles.
The agony resumed in the First World War, shown for example in this exhibit (first photo) of the overcoat of a French officer who died in the trenches. Nearly a century later, the mud of the trenches is still on his coat.
Second photo: The army started using bicycles and automobiles more or less simultaneously in the early twentieth century, though it took a long time before they completely replaced the traditional horses. The Clément company manufactured both bicycles and automobiles for the army, as shown in this advertisement.
Third photo: A portrayal of this period of history would not be complete without reference to the French colonies, which still existed in many parts of the world. There is even an exhibit on the infamous (but at the time very popular) Colonial Exhibition of 1931, which I have written about in several of my tips starting with the one on the Palais de la Porte Dorée, which was built especially for that exposition.
Fourth photo: There are also detailed exhibits on the Second World War, including the German occupation of France and Hitler posing in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Fifth photo: This large photo shows what was left of a French railroad yard after the bombings of the Second World War.
Next review from June 2012: Musée des Plans-reliefs
After my glorious military career of one year, nine months and thirteen days as a draftee in the American Army (including fifty-one weeks in Vietnam), I am not exactly what you would call a military buff.
In fact I never thought I would voluntarily set foot in an army museum, and probably won’t again, but I must admit that the Army Museum in the Invalides in Paris is well worth seeing, especially since it has recently been redesigned and modernized.
The Invalides, as the name implies, is a building that was originally built as a home for disabled army veterans, and part of one wing of the building is still used for this purpose. But the rest is devoted to Napoléon’s tomb and – especially – the Army Museum.
The museum consists of several departments in various wings of this huge building. One of the largest is the “modern” department, covering the years from 1643 to 1870 under the title “From Louis XIV to Napoleon III”.
The museography here is superb. Most exhibits are shown under subdued light. Everything is clearly labeled and nicely organized. There are informative text panels in French and English, and the texts are much more balanced and objective that I would have expected from an army museum.
My only slight quibble is that the items on display are not of any great interest to an unreconstructed civilian like me. There are thousands of swords, for instance. It seems that every kind of officer in every epoch of French history had a special kind of sword, and they are all on display here.
Third photo: The same goes for rifles, though in the case of rifles I doubt if there are more than eight or nine hundred different types in the museum, since rifles do not have such a long history as swords do.
Fourth photo: Then there are the generals. All armies have generals, and before the invention of photography all generals liked to get dressed up in their fanciest uniforms and have their portraits painted. As a random example, here is a portrait of the (no doubt illustrious) general Bernard-Georges-François Frère (1764-1828), as portrayed for posterity by a painter named Nicolas Gosse in 1808.
Next review from June 2012: The Army Museum 1871-1945
Built in the 17th century, this large complex should be a hospital for old aged and cripple soldiers, thus getting its name.
A few years later a royal church was built, inspired in St Peter's church, in Rome.
This church is now the central part of the complex, becoming a gem of French Baroque.
Commonly known as the "soldiers church" this imposing stucture is decorated with banners seized in battle Inside the dome you'll find the tomb of Napoleon as well as those of his brothers Jérôme, Joseph and of his son as well.
After you've visited the church, take a walk over to the musuem.
The Hotel of Invalides was constructed in classical style in 1679-1709. Its dome decorated by a gold ornament with a graceful small lamp at a spike in height of 107 m.
The ashes of Napoleon transported from island of Sacred Elena in nineteen years after death of emperor is based inside.
In September of 1840 remains of Napoleon wre returned to France and burried, as well as remains of pharaons, in six coffins: from a tin, mahogany, lead, an eben tree and an oak. Coffins are placed in the big sarcophagus from a red granite. 12 winged Victories of emperor stand around. The Cathedral is a tribute of Napoleon memory.
You can watch my 3 min 16 sec Video Paris Invalides out of my Youtube channel.