The Invalides Complex
The complex of buildings known as Les Invalides sits in Paris’s 7th arrondissement and consists of museums and monuments related to the military history of France. The most recognizable and well-known part of Les Invalides is the Dôme des Invalides, Dôme des Invalides a gold-domed building now used as a burial site for a number of the country’s war heroes.
History of Les Invalides
In 1670, King Louis XIV decided to build the “Hotel Royal des Invalides” for wounded homeless soldiers of its different wars. The name is a shortened form of hospital des invalids. It was built between 1671 and 1676 by Liberal Bruant, and then by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Robert de Cotte. It is one of the most important monuments in Paris. The most significant event in the history of Les Invalides is unquestionably the return of the body of Napoléon in 1840, from St. Helena. On 8 October 1840 – 19 years after the death of the Emperor – the coffin was disclosed. Nowadays, it still maintains its initial purpose but the building also houses three museums Napoleon 1st tomb designed en 1843 and two churches.
That same year King Louis XIV – the Sun King – charged architect Jules Hardouin Mansart with the task of creating a separate private chapel at the Invalides for the exclusive use of the royal family. It is this gold-domed church, completed in 1708 by de Cotte after Mansart died, that many individuals recognize. Inspired by Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica, this chapel, known as Elise du Dome, is considered one of the world’s most exciting examples of French Baroque architecture. The dome itself is 107 meters high (351 ft), making it one of the tallest monuments in Paris, and was centrally placed in order to dominate the court of honor – one of 15 yards at the complex, designed for military parades.
Architecture and Design
On the north front of Les Invalides Hardouin-Mansart’s chapel dome is large enough to dominate the long façade, yet matches with Bruant’s door under a curved pediment. To the north, the courtyard is extended by a wide public walkway where the embassies of Austria and Finland are neighbors 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 urbanites axis with the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais. The Pont des Invalides is next, downstream the Seine river. The Hospital des Invalides spurred William III of England to emulation; in the military Greenwich Hospital of 1694. The buildings still comprise the Institution National des Invalides a national institution for disabled war veterans. The institution comprises:
• A retirement home
• Medical and surgical center
• A center for external medical consultations.
Napoleon’s whose last wish was to be buried at the banks of the Seine River died on the island of St. Helena and was buried there. In order to line the tomb, architect Louis Visconti had to redesign the high altar of the domed church. Upon completion in 1861, the remains of Napoleon’s body were then placed in 6 boxes inside a tomb, which was fashioned from red Finnish porphyry with a green granite base, and placed inside the tomb. A dozen large figures are arranged around the tomb, intended to represent Napoleon’s victories. Also buried at Invalides are several members of Napoleon’s family as well as a number of prominent French military leaders and war heroes. The memorial of Sebastian le Pester de Vauban, Marshal of King Louis XIV’s army, was installed here in 1808 at Napoleon’s request.