Les Invalides

Les Invalides is a building complex documenting French military history, with museums and monuments, most notable being Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb.

Sun King Louis XIV had the complex built, to be used as a military hospital and a home for war veterans.

Today, the place houses several museums about French military history, including…

  • Musée de l’Armée (Army Museum),
  • Musée de l’Ordre de la Libération, and
  • Musée des Plans-Reliefs (a museum for miniatures of military building).

Les Invalides aerial view Paris France

PHOTO: An aerial view of the buildings, photographed towards Pont Alexandre III, Grand Palais, and Avenue des Champs Elysees.

Les Invalides Paris France

PHOTO: Central part of the complex, “Dôme” section.

Dome Les Invalides Paris France

PHOTO: A closeup of the grand dome, directly under which the tomb of Napoleon is located. The French Baroque dome has been designed with Saint Peter’s basilica (in Rome, Italy) as an inspiration.

Hotel des Invalides Paris France

PHOTO: An overview of the “Hôtel” section, as seen from Rue de Grenelle.

Hotel des Invalides cannons Paris France

PHOTO: The pictured cannons are located opposite Esplanade des Invalides, in front of the “Hôtel” section. They are remains of enemy artillery from France’s past military victories.

Hotel des Invalides entrance Paris France

PHOTO: A closer look at the entrance portal to the “Hôtel” section…which contains a bas-relief by Guillaume Coustou elder, of an equestrian Sun King Louis XIV (as Ludovicus Magnus or Louis the Magnificent), with allegorical artworks for “justice” and “practical wisdom” to his sides.

Hotel des Invalides statue Paris France

PHOTO: Guillaume Coustou’s artwork on the entrance portal to the Hôtel des Invalides’ Cour d’Honneur courtyard. The statue is of Mars, ancient Roman god of war, with a wolf next to his feet. On the other side of the portal, there is an artwork of Minerva, the ancient Roman goddess of medicine and wisdom.

Hotel des Invalides cour d'honneur Paris France

PHOTO: There are a total of 15 courtyards within Les Invalides, the largest being the pictured “Cour d’honneur”. Historically, cour d’honneur was reserved for military parades, today offering a passageway to the Musée de l’Armée.

Hotel des Invalides Napoleon Paris France

PHOTO: View to the southern side of the 102 meter long and 64 meter wide Cour d’honneur, with a statue of Napoleon on view.

Napoleon statue Cour d'Honneur Les Invalides Paris France

PHOTO: Closeup of the Napoleon (as Emperor Napoleon I) statue at the Cour d’honneur. The artwork, officially “Napoléon Ier en Petit Caporal” by Emile Seurre (from 1833), was, until 1863, located on top of the Place Vendôme column.

To build the complex, King Louis XIV chose architect Libéral Bruant for the job, with construction work commencing in 1671…and being completed in 1674.

Hotel des Invalides section was expanded just two years later, by 1676, and it is then when the complex got its 15 inner courtyards, the biggest of which was Cour d’Honneur. Another addition was a chapel, completed in 1679.

Later (1706-1708), a royal church, Eglise du Dôme was added to the buildings, designed by Jules Mansart, who took inspiration for his creation from Saint Peter’s basilica (in Rome).

The highlight of the Eglise du Dôme is its 107 meter tall main dome, with 12.65 kilos of pure gold being used to decorate it.

Napoleon died at the island of Saint Helena in 1821, but King Louis Philippe ordered his remains to be brought to Paris in 1840…

…where they got their final resting place, at the Eglise du Dôme, in1861. The tomb is located directly under the main dome.