One of the more familiar landmarks in Paris is the gold-capped dome of Les Invalides, also known as Hotel des Invalides, and the adjoining Army Museum (Musée de l’Armée). This is a complex of buildings in Paris containing, most famously, the tomb of beloved leader Napoleon Bonaparte.
King Louis XIV, the Sun King, began the project in 1670. King Louis saw the need for a home and hospital for war heroes who had long and faithfully served their country (20 years of service were needed for residency). It was later realized that a royal chapel should be part of the complex, which was completed in 1708. During the 18th century the veterans were required to attend church every day.
The area containing Napoleon’s tomb is part of the church, which has burial monuments for many of France’s war heroes. Napoleon’s quartzite tomb holds a position of prominence and honor resting under the church’s magnificent dome.
A large property adjoining the Seine River, the Invalides has seen much Paris history unfold. In 1789 it was stormed by rioters who seized cannons and muskets to use against the Bastille. The return of Napoleon’s body from exile and its burial here in 1840 was a cause of great ceremony.
The property was mostly used as a retirement home and hospital until early in the 20th century. At that time, the remaining residents were dispersed to smaller centers outside Paris. The Army Museum was created in 1905 when the Artillery Museum merged with the Army History Museum and it has, since that time, expanded. Today it is one of the largest military museums in the world. Its extensive collections include old weapons and armor, artillery models, and Napoleon related memorabilia. The collection has exhibits dating to the 20th century, with a focus on World War I and World War II.
Today the complex is also used as a public resource. Concerts are held here as are film screenings, conferences and symposiums. It makes for an interesting half day of exploration while in Paris, especially if you have an interest in military history.
Select photos of Les Invaldes and the Army Museum collection follow….
(Click thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance slideshow)