Les Invalides
Les Invalides ( French pronunciation: ), officially known as L'Hôtel national des Invalides (The National Residence of the Invalids), is a complex of buildings in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, France, 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 ( lists below ).

Louis XIV initiated the project by an order dated November 24, 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 selected site was suburban in the seventeenth century. By the time the enlarged project was completed in 1676, the river front measured 196 metres and the complex had fifteen courtyards, the largest being the cour d'honneur ("court of honour") for military parades. It was then felt that the veterans required a chapel. Jules Hardouin Mansart assisted the aged Bruant, and the chapel was finished in 1679 to Bruant's designs after the elder architect's death. The chapel is known as Eglise Saint-Louis des Invalides. Daily attendance was required. Shortly after the veterans' chapel was completed, Louis XIV had Mansart construct a separate private royal chapel, often referred to as the Église du Dôme from its most striking feature ( ill. right). Inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome the original for all Baroque domes, it is one of the triumphs of French Baroque architecture. Mansart raises his drum with an attic storey over its main cornice, and employs the paired columns motif in his more complicated rhythmic theme. The general programme is sculptural but tightly integrated, rich but balanced, consistently carried through, capping its vertical thrust firmly with a ribbed and hemispherical dome. The domed chapel is centrally placed to dominate the court of honour. It was finished in 1708. The interior of the dome ( illustration, right) was painted by Le Brun's disciple Charles de La Fosse (1636–1716) with a Baroque illusion of space seen from below ( sotto in su perspective, the Italians were calling it). The painting was completed in 1705.

On the north front of Les Invalides ( illustration, right) Hardouin-Mansart's chapel dome is large enough to dominate the long facade yet harmonizes with Libéral Bruant's door under an arched pediment. To the north the courtyard ( cour d'honneur), is extended by a wide public esplanade ( Esplanade des Invalides) where the embassies of Austria and Finland are neighbours of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, all forming one of the grand open spaces in the heart of Paris. At its far end, the Pont Alexandre III links this grand urbanistic axis with the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais. (the Pont des Invalides is next, downstream the Seine river). The Hôpital des Invalides spurred William III of England to emulation, in the military Greenwich Hospital of 1694. The buildings still comprise the Institution Nationale des Invalides ( official site), a national institution for disabled war veterans. The institution comprises:
  • a retirement home
  • a medical and surgical centre
  • a centre for external medical consultations.

Tombs and vaults

The most notable tomb at Les Invalides is that of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821). Napoleon was initially interred on Saint Helena, but King Louis-Philippe arranged for his remains to be brought to St Jerome's Chapel in Paris in 1840, in what became known as the retour des cendres. A renovation of Les Invalides took many years, but in 1861 Napoleon was moved to the most prominent location under the dome at Les Invalides. A popular tourist site today, Les Invalides is also the burial site for some of Napoleon's family, for several military officers who served under him, and other French military heroes such as:
  • Henri Gratien, Comte Bertrand (1773–1844), army general during the First French Empire who accompanied Napoleon to Elba and then St Helena. He brought Napoleon's body back to France in 1840.
  • Joseph Bonaparte (1768–1844), Napoleon's elder brother.
  • Jérôme Bonaparte (1784–1860), Napoleon's youngest brother.
  • Napoleon II (1811–1832) son of Napoleon.
  • Thomas Bugeaud (1784–1849), Marshal of France and conqueror of Algeria.
  • François Canrobert (1809–1895), Marshal of France.
  • Geraud Duroc (1774–1813), general who fought with Napoleon.
  • Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle (1760–1836), army captain, author of France's national anthem, La Marseillaise .
  • Ferdinand Foch (1851–1929), Marshal of France, Allied Supreme Commander in the First World War.
  • Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne (1611–1675), better known as Turenne, Marshal General of France under Louis XIV and one of France's greatest military leaders.
  • Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban's heart (1633–1707), designer of Louis XIV's military fortifications.
  • Pierre Auguste Roques (1856–1920), founder of the French Air Force and Minister of War in 1916.
  • Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque (1902–1947), Marshal of France, hero of World War II, commander of the famous 2nd Armored Division.
  • Jean de Lattre de Tassigny (1889–1952), Marshal of France, commander of the French First Army during World War II.

The bodies of the following are interred in the vaults of Les Invalides: The hearts of the following are interred in the vaults of Les Invalides while their bodies rest elsewhere:

Works inspired or influenced by Les Invalides
  • San Francisco City Hall Built in 1914-1915, opened in the latter year.
  • The United States Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Maryland USA, built 1904-1908, architect Ernest Flagg. The chapel was enlarged in 1940, changing it from a Greek cross to a Roman cross. The new section was designed by Philadelphia architect Paul Cret. John Paul Jones is buried in the crypt in a sarcophagus made of marble from the Pyrenees donated by the people of France.


3 photos

Building Activity

  • updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via Annotator
  • updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via OpenBuildings.com