Dômes - Hôtel des Invalides, Paris
You will not be surprised that a large part of the Modern Department 1648 - 1870 (ref. my tip Modern department 1648 - 1870) is about Napoleon Bonaparte and his army in the campaigns of the First French Empire against Austria, Germany, Great-Britain, Prussia, Russia, Spain, etc.
Uniforms, weapons, horse harnesses, emblems are exhibited as well as the personal belongings of Napoleon and his marshals and generals. There are also historical paintings of battle scenes and portraits (photo 1).
Remarkable are the objects belonging to Napoleon when he was on campaign (photo 2).
I got struck by two objects:
- The uniform which belonged to a "Grenadier de la Garde Impériale" called Simplet (photo 4).
It's a funny name for a member of the élite Imperial Grenadiers à Pied 1st Regiment as in French "simplet" means simple-minded. I don't think that grenadier Simplet was simple-minded. To be admitted as a Grenadier one needed a high moral and military reputation and to measure at least 1,76 m.
- The white horse of Napoleon. The stuffed horse shown at the museum (photo 3) is more beige than white but I was very pleased to see that famous white horse from Napoleon.
When I was a kid teachers at primary school used to ask their pupils:" quelle était la couleur du cheval blanc de Napoléon" . It seems that the question "what is the colour of Napoleon's white horse" is still in usage in a number of schools.
The relief map museum, part of the Invalides, is located on the 4th floor of the east wing (same ticket as the Invalides army museum). It is a museum for amateurs of the history of fortifications with its main figure Vauban. Amateurs of scale-model making will also be interested by the techniques and scale of models in the 18th c.
Relief maps are accurate scale-models of fortified sites. It were strategic tools used for the defence of the territory and responding to the advances of the artillery. The first were made under King Louis XIV and later expanded to conquered sites on the frontiers of France.
The collection comprises 100 relief maps on a 1/600 scale, and models of fortifications.
About 25 of them can be seen in the museum under reduced light to conserve the colours of the painted paper.
There are 4 areas: the Channel, the Atlantic coast, the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean.
The northern area of France with towns fortified by Vauban in Belgium is exposed in Lille.
Most spectacular are the models of fortifications such as the Mont-Saint-Michel, the citadel of Belle-Ile, the port of Bayonne on a huge surface of 8,50 m x 6,60 m, the Château d'If at Marseille, etc.
The precision of these relief-maps made them a source of information about the history of urban development.
Open: 10 - 17 h from 1/10 to 31/03
10 - 18 h from 1/04 to 30/09
Closed: 1st Monday of each month.
Price: combined ticket Invalides 9,5 €, reduced 7,5€, free less than 26 years old. Includes entry to the Tomb of Napoleon, Army museum and Museum of the Order of Liberation.
This museum is housed in a wing of the Invalides. It will interest all those who want to know more about the Free French Forces, the Resistance, the Order of Liberation (a gallery and 6 rooms on the ground floor) and the Deportation (first floor) during WW II.
The free French Forces were formed in the UK after the Appeal of General de Gaulle on 18/06/1940. Volunteers, escaped from occupied France, formed companies, battalions and finally two divisions: the 1st Free French Division and the 2nd Armoured Division (which liberated Paris) as well as Free French Naval Forces, Free French AirForce with the famous Normandy-Niemen Fighter Squadron (fighting with the Russians), the Commandos.
The Order of Liberation was instituted by the General de Gaulle in 1940 to reward men, towns and fighting units who had distinguished themselves in the fight to liberate France and her Empire. The insignia of the Order, the prestigious Cross of Liberation, was awarded to only 1038 men and women, 5 towns and 18 fighting units. They carry the rank of "Compagnon de la Libération".
The Commemoration Room is devoted to General de Gaulle and General Leclerc
The Resistance within France, the "Maquis" are illustrated in the gallery. Among the great figures stands Jean Moulin.
The Deportation is illustrated by a number of objects from concentration and extermination camps.
THE MUSEUM OF THE ORDER OF LIBERATION IS CLOSED FROM 1/01/2012 TILL 1/06/2014.
"Le Musée de l'Ordre de la Libération est fermé pour rénovation du 1er janvier 2012 au 18 juin 2014."
Price: combined ticket Invalides (to be bought at the Army Museum ticket office)
9,50 €, reduced 7,50€, free less than 26 years old. Paris Museum Pass.
As I am not an admirer of Napoleon, or of the other potentates who put Europe in fire and in blood, I visited several times the Invalides leaving aside Napoleon's tomb.
Nevertheless Bonaparte is not unknown to me because he lost the definitive battle in Waterloo, that is not far from my home.
During my recent visit to the museum of the army at the Invalides, I took advantage of my museum pass to enter under the dome. No doubt that the dome with its gilts is one of the grandiose Paris' monuments. Furthermore the flowery gardens in front of the monument are beautiful
Inside I was unpleasantly surprised by the almost deification of the emperor Napoleon, the monumental sarcophagus, the souvenirs of Bonaparte presented as saint's relics.
The worship of the emperor is not for me; too many people suffered because of his megalomania. However I recognize that his rationalization of antiquated legal systems in the "Code Napoléon" was a great progress for the principle of equality before the law and is still influencing present European legal systems.
There are also tombs from French military heroes such as Maréchal Foch, Allied Supreme Commander in the First World War, Maréchal Leclerc and Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny heroes of World War II but the most outstanding Frenchman of WW II and the 20th c. the General Charles de Gaulle has no tomb here, nor in the Pantheon. He is modestly buried at the parish cemetery of the small town Colombey- Les-Deux-Eglises as he wanted.
Open: 10 - 17 h from 1/10 to 31/03
10 - 18 h from 1/04 to 30/09
Closed: 1st Monday of each month.
Price: combined ticket Invalides 9 €, reduced 7€, free less than 26 years old. Includes entry to the Tomb of Napoleon, Army museum, Relief Map museum and Museum of the Order of Liberation.
La déification de Napoléon.
N'étant pas un admirateur de Napoléon, ni des autres potentats qui ont mis l'Europe à feu et à sang, j'ai visité plusieurs fois les Invalides en laissant de côté le tombeau de Napoléon. Pourtant le personnage ne m'est pas inconnu puisqu'il a perdu la bataille définitive à Waterloo, c'est-à-dire pas loin de ma demeure.
Lors de ma récente visite au musée de l'armée aux Invalides, j'ai profité de mon museum pass pour entrer sous le dôme resplendissant de ses dorures. Le dôme est incontestablement un des monuments grandioses de Paris. De plus les jardins fleuris qui le précèdent sont de toute beauté.
J'ai été désagréablement surpris à l'intérieur par la quasi déification de l'empereur Napoléon, le sarcophage monumental, les souvenirs de Bonaparte présentes comme des reliques de saint.
Le culte de l'empereur n'est pas pour moi; trop de gens ont souffert à cause de sa folie des grandeurs.
Louis XIV built this "hotel" to shelter the disable soldiers of his numerous campaigns.
One of my ancesters, a gendarme (French horserider policeman) died there in 1847. At this time, it was a house for retired soldiers.
Napoleon's tomb is here. The emperor's body is protected by 6 coffins and nobody dares to make an autopsy to discover if he was poisened by Hudson Lowe, his jailer, in 1821.
Les Invalides are also the Army Museum which is open from 10AM to 6PM (5PM and 5:30PM on Sunday, on low season).
Ticket : 7 euros
The museum presents uniforms, arms and paintings from the Middle Age to the contemporary time.
During my last visit I was with a couple of American VTers and we had the chance to see a re-enactment in memory of the Napoleon's coronation, 200 years later, on December 2, 1804. I saw a grenadier of the Napolenic guard taking his cellular out of his pocket to answer a call...
My advice : for history lovers (I am)
In 1840, it was decided that the remains of Emperor Napolean would be transferred.
His national funeral took place December 15th of the same year.
The sculptor Visconti was commissioned to build the tomb which was completed in 1861 and the Emperor's remains were then placed in it. (What I'd like to know, is where did they store Napolean's remains from 1840 to 1861?)
The tomb, made in red porphyry [a type of rock consisting of feldspar crystals embedded in a compact dark red (or purple) groundmass], and placed on a base in green granite from Les Vosges, is surrounded by a wreath of laurel and inscriptions recalling the major victories of the Empire.
In the circular gallery surrounding the tomb, a series of bas-reliefs sculpted by Simart represent the principal actions of his reign.
At the centre, above the slab under which the King of Rome rests, stands a statue of the Emperor, bearing the imperial emblems.
Napolean's Tomb can be visited until 7 p.m. from mid-June to mid-September.
It opens at 10 a.m.
In 1671, Louis XIV decided to create the 'Hotel des Invalides' designed to welcome his war veterans.
At the end of the XVIIth century, the hotel, a true miniature city, governed by a religious & military system, housed up to 400 guests. The soldiers were divided into companies and operated workshops (cobbling, tapestry, illumination). Today, the national institution still persues its initial vocation for which it was founded.
While at L'Hotel national des Invalides be sure to see:
1. The Soldier's Church (St. Louis Church)
2. The Dome Church
3. The Emperor's Tomb where Napolean's remains were placed
4. Weapons and Armour from Antiquity to the XVIIth C. (ground floor, west wing)
5. The First and Second World War Rooms (2nd floor, west wing)
6. Artillery Dept. (1st floor, west room)
7. Emblem Dept. (ground floor, east wing)
8. Vauban Room (French Army from 1680 to present)
9. Rooms devoted to the Ancient Monarchy
10. The Revolution & Empire Rooms
11. The Bugeaud Room
12. The Chanzy & Pelissier Rooms
13. The Boutique
14. The Cafeteria
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from October to March (check for exact dates as they will vary year to year)
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April to September
Napolean's Tomb can be visited until 7 p.m., from June to September.
Hotel des Invalides was built in the 1670s by order of King Louis XIV as a hospital and nursing home for the thousands of French war veterans - it still serves as such for about a hundred people. Most of the complex has now been turned into a war museum, and the majestic Dome des Invalides is where Emperor Napoleon I has been laid to rest.
Although it is free to walk around Les Invalides and to enter the church Saint-Louis-des-Invalides, it costs 8 Euros to visit the Dome and the war museum (but you can use your Museum Pass if you have one). Saint-Louis-des-Invalides, otherwise knows as the soldiers' church was completed in 1708. Its only ornaments are flags that were taken from the enemy in the course of France's numerous wars. Napoleon Bonaparte's tomb sits underneath the Dome des invalides and is surrounded by the tombs of other French war heroes, such as Marshal Foch.
As for the war museum, we only visited the part of the exhibition that covered the two World Wars. We thought we'd just take a quick peak as we didn't feel like getting into something this heavy when we were so light-hearted but we ended up visiting the whole thing. The exhibition was captivating and very moving - I will always remember the uniform of a French soldier killed during the 1914-18 war, still covered in mud from the trenches, as well as the German street signs that were put up in Paris during the 1939-45 war.
Les Invalides is a huge building complex, originally built at the orders of Louis XIV as a refuge for old and infirm former soldiers. I can only say that Louis' wars must have left an awful lot of them! The façade of the building is nearly 200 metres long and four storeys high. The Invalides now houses four museums, the best known being the Musée de l’Armée, which apparently has a huge display of weapons and armour through the centuries.
I chose to visit the Museum of the Order of the Liberation, which is in the Robert de Cotte wing of the Invalides, on the western side. Unfortunately there is a rule of no photos, so words will have to suffice. This is clearly not one of the more visited museums, I was one of very few visitors at the time. Entry through the foyer is past a black marble plaque listing the names of the individuals (only 1038), towns and units awarded the Cross of the Liberation, the second highest award in France after the Legion of Honour. Beyond that, there are rooms and galleries to the Free French Forces and their activities in various military theatres. There also is an extensive gallery on the French Resistance which gathered information, assisted people to escape, and assisted aerial operations. It also provided the nucleus for the ‘Maquis’, the fighting part of the operation: on display are sections of rail track and locomotive wheels destroyed by Maquis activities. The museum was making me increasingly depressed so I decided to skip the section about the Deportation – that would have been too much.
Worth a visit? I suspect it depends on your enthusiasm for things military. A Museum Pass will gain you entry and there are no queues.
Main photo: Façade of the Invalides
Second photo: Main entrance to the Invalides.
Les Invalides is complex of buildings devoted to military history of France. It is consist of Military museums and monuments and there are hospital and a retirement home for war veterans. The church at the Invalides is look like Basilica San Petro in Rome. The most famous tomb in the Invalides is tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte
The 7th district is the location for a few sights and among them is Les Invalides. This was created by Louis XIV as a home for disabled soldiers. The huge, ornate dome was designed my Mansart after the death of the king.
If you approach Les Invalides from the Pont Alexandre III it is a very impressive sight to behold. Long entranceway with a huge lawn with the building in the center. You can also approach it via rue de Varenne to the side. No matter what approach you take the building is huge and it actually resembles the Pantheon.
Not only is Les Invalides still housing the retired military personnel but it's famous for Napleon's tomb and the army museum. You pay one entrance fee to see both the tomb and museum.
Napoleon's tomb is in the main building that has the dome. It's directly in the center of the building and is huge. His remains are interred in several coffins within the tomb. The tomb itself is red and is made from Finnish porphyry. It's funny to think of this small emperor within this enormous tomb.
Above Napoleon's tomb is an altar and to one side there is another tomb, that of his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, Commander Foch, and the Vicompte de Turenne. There are also model displays of the French Army and some examples of military dress.
The Invalides are in my opinion one of the most beautiful architectural complexes of Paris. Approaching by the Seine and the Esplanade or by the back from the south, with the Dome, a great harmony of proportions emanates from the Hôtel des Invalides. The architect Bruant was appointed by Louvois secretary of War under the reign of Louis XIV.
The wall in the front part of the garden is surmounted with ancient guns showing a beautiful green patina (photo 1). From the gate the visitor has a fine view on the whole frontage with the top of the gilded Dome above the roofs.
The garden aligns tubes of old guns. The sight towards the Seine and the Grand Palais in the axis of this gun (photo 2) whose back represents a head of smiling lion is superb.
The interior courtyard is at the same time sober and elegant (photo 3). Tubes of guns are aligned on the sides. Under the arcades stand an old gun on wheels (photo 4). The Invalides is since 1871 also an Artillery museum.
As for the back of the Invalides, the Dome Church is magnificent. The architect was Jules Hardouin-Mansart under Louis XIV (photo 5).
Open: 10 - 17 h from 1/10 to 31/03
10 - 18 h from 1/04 to 30/09
Closed: 1st Monday of each month.
Price (2013): combined ticket Invalides 9,50 €, reduced 7,50 €, free less than 26 years old. Includes entry to the Tomb of Napoleon, Army museum, Relief Map museum and Museum of the Order of Liberation.
Inner courtyard: free
Les Invalides constituent à mes yeux un des plus beaux ensembles architecturaux de Paris. Que l'on s'approche par le côté Seine, par l'esplanade, ou par l'arrière, par le Dôme, il se dégage de l'Hôtel des Invalides une grande harmonie de proportions.
A l'avant plan se détache le mur surmonté de quelques cannons à la belle patine verte derrière lequel s'étend le jardin qui ouvre une belle perspective sur l'ensemble de la façade (photo 1) due à l'architecte Libéral Bruant choisi par Louvois ministre de la Guerre de Louis XIV.
Au dessus des toits se détache le Dôme avec ses dorures. Le jardin aligne des tubes de canons anciens. La vue vers la Seine et le Grand Palais dans l'axe de ce canon (photo 2) dont l'arrière représente une tête de lion grimaçant est superbe. Depuis 1871 se trouve ici le Musée d'Artillerie.
La cour intérieure est à la fois sobre et élégante (photo 3). Des tubes de canons sont alignés sur les côtés. Sous les arcades se trouve une belle pièce d'artillerie ancienne sur roues (photo 4).
Quant à l'arrière des Invalides au sud, la vue du Dôme n'a pas son égal en Europe à mon avis. C''est l'architecte du Roi Louis XIV Jules Hardouin-Mansart qui réalise la grande église royale en 1676 (photo 5).
The Saint-Louis Church of the Invalids has something unique in Europe by the fact that the building is double: the nave constitutes the Church of the Soldiers, while the chorus, under the cupola, is called the Dome. Up to the Revolution, the two churches used the same high altar. The distinction was concretized by the installation, in 1873, of a large window separating the two parts.
There is presently a marked contrast between the Church of the Soldiers with a clear and sober décor (and few visitors) and the much visited Dome with the tomb of Napoleon and its magnificent marble decors but there exists an architectural continuity particularly visible from aerial views.
The architect was Jules Hardouin-Mansart who produced in 1680 the final design for the Dome des Invalides, a Greek cross inscribed in a square with an attached circular presbytery. It is a highlight of the French classical architecture and a point of reference in the Parisian landscape culminating at 101 meters. In 1989, at the time of the bicentenary of the French revolution, the dome was regilded with 550.000 sheets of gold, i.e. more than ten kilos.
The Saint-Louis church (presently a cathedral) was completed in 1679 and intended for the worship and the daily offices of the disabled army veterans.
Another unique characteristic is the fact that the vault is decorated with military trophies of France, and contains the tombs of Marshals of France, important military chiefs as well as many governors of the Invalides.
Saint-Louis des Invalides is attached administratively to the museum of the Army and is today the seat of vicariate to the French Armies and used each year for commemorative masses among which the mass remembering the death of Napoleon I.
The Organ built by Alexandre Thierry in 1679 is famous but was repaired and modified on several occasions. It is in this church that the world's première of Hector Berlioz's Requiem was given in 1837.
Open:10 - 17 or 18 h. Entry is free.
‘Le Petit Caporal’: was he just another megalomaniac, a restless visionary with a plan to unite Europe that was only about 200 years too early, a civil reformer, or even a great general? You could probably buy an argument with any of those propositions, not just in France but in most of the countries he touched with his influence.
His story is well known through retelling many times in various forms of media. Suffice to say that he died in exile, a prisoner of the British at St Helena Island on 5 May 1821. Was he poisoned as he claimed, or was his death (as recently suggested) a result of stomach cancer? Either way, he was laid to permanent rest here in 1840. His remains rest inside six concentric coffins like a russian doll. These all are enclosed in a huge sculpted porphyry sarcophagus under the gilt Dome of the Invalides. A steady stream of visitors comes, if not to pay respects, at least to visit.
Main photo: Dome of the Invalides
Second photo: Napoleon’s sarcophagus under the dome
Third photo: Inside the dome of the Invalides.
The WW I and WW II departments have been renovated and extended what is a good thing because this part of the Invalides Army Museum was somewhat short in the previous years.
This department deals with the military history from 1871 to 1945 on an expanded surface of 3500 m2 since July 2006.
I was pleased to see that this period of history in which France had a central position is now up to other museums WW departments like the ones of Brussels, London or Vienna for example.
Are exposed French and foreign uniforms, certain having belonged to major figures - Foch, Joffre, de Lattre, Leclerc - diverse armaments and objects of the everyday equipment of the soldier.
I found very interesting the windows showing proposals around 1900 for less visible uniforms as those inherited from Napoleon III. (see cavalry helms around 1900 on photo 1). But they were finally refused so that the French soldiers went into the WW I with "garance" red coloured trousers (photo 2) what made of them quite visible targets for the German riflemen.
I was much impressed by a model of the famous German heavy howitzer called "Grosse Bertha". My grand parents told me about that howitzer used in Belgium against the forts of Liège and Namur in 1914. It would fire 800 kg shells at 9 Km distance (photo 3).
Is also shown one of the "taxis de la Marne" (photo 4). In September 1914, 600 taxis from Paris were requisitioned to bring troops to the Marne battlefield. The movement started at the Invalides and conveyed 5 infantry battalions (total 5000 man).
What is not shown in this museum are heavy weapons like tanks or planes. For the tanks one should visit the "Musée des Blindés" in Saumur (on the Loire) where there are more than 800 tanks!
Open (2013): 10 - 17 h from 1/10 to 31/03
10 - 18 h from 1/04 to 30/09
Closed: 1st Monday of each month (except July, August, September).
Price (2013): combined ticket Invalides 9 € 50, reduced 7 € 50, free less than 26 years old. Includes entry to the Tomb of Napoleon, Army museum, Relief Map museum and Museum of the Order of Liberation.