Les Invalides

By annesophie | March 7, 2011 | Filed under: Buildings

Hotel des Invalides (photo: photoserge.com)


Les Invalides, 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.

History

Louis XIV initiated the project by an order dated 24 November 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 in the then suburban plain of Grenelle (plaine de Grenelle). 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 Église Saint-Louis des Invalides. Daily attendance was required.

Shortly after the veterans’ chapel was completed, Louis XIV commissioned Mansart to construct a separate private royal chapel referred to as the Église du Dôme from its most striking feature. 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 raised its drum with an attic storey over its main cornice, and employed 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 was painted by Le Brun’s disciple Charles de La Fosse with a Baroque illusion of space (sotto in su) seen from below. The painting was completed in 1705.

Architecture

On the north front of Les Invalides Hardouin-Mansart’s chapel dome is large enough to dominate the long façade, yet harmonizes with 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, 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

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 France in 1840, an event known as le retour des cendres. Napoléon’s ashes were first buried in the Chapelle Saint-Jérôme in the Invalides until his final resting place, a tomb made of red quartzite and resting on a green granitebase, was finished in 1861.

Some members of Napoleon’s family, several military officers who served under him, and other French military heroes are also buried at Les Invalides.

Suggested hotel

Hotel Palais Bourbon - http://www.bourbon-paris-hotel.com/


Tags: 7th arrondissement, facts, historical

One Response to Les Invalides

  1. Caryl Baile on March 20, 2011 at 7:32 am

    This design is spectacular! You obviously know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Excellent job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

    Reply

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