Les Invalides

The Hôtel des Invalides was the most ambitious project under Louis XIV, after Versailles, and was built to welcome retired soldiers. Today it houses no less than four museums - and Napoleon Bonaparte's tomb.

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L'hotel des invalides accueille 4 musees à proximité de l'hotel d'Orsay paris

In 1670, Louis XIV, both horrified and uneasy at seeing so many former soldiers begging in the streets, ordered the sumptuous Hôtel des Invalides to be built, which, as its name suggests, was made for soldiers who had been decommissioned, either due to age or invalidity. It was the most ambitious building project of the king's reign, after Versailles. The plans were drawn up by the architect Libéral Bruant, who also worked on the Place Vendôme and the Hôtel de la Salpêtrière.  Jules-Hardouin Mansart, his student, took over the project and continued the building work. The conduct of the pensioners was very strict, like the architecture of the building, both austere and grandiose.

History of the Invalides

In 1690, about 6 000 men asked to be admitted, although the institution was designed for only 1 500 pensioners. Monarchs all over Europe were inspired by it to create their own military hospitals. The royal chapel in the building was constructed in 1706. Its daring dome sparkles with gold and rises to a height of 107 metres.  Inside, the large-scale fresco painted under the cupola by Charles de la Fosse has recently been restored. In 1840, Napoleon's ashes were placed there and the chapel became an imperial mausoleum. In 1861, the emperor's porphyry tomb, a colossal work by the Italian, Visconti, was placed in the funeral crypt, at the centre of the dome.

A concentration of collections and memoribilia of all kinds

Ideally placed facing the Seine, Alexander III Bridge and the Grand Palais, the Invalides houses four museums. The Army Museum, founded in 1905, has one of the most complete collections of any military museum in the world. The paintings, armour, uniforms and memorabilia of all kinds range across the centuries from Antiquity to the Second World War. Francis I's armour and Napoleon's death mask are on display, among other objects. The Musée des Plans et Reliefs contains a large number of models of cities, ports and strongholds made for Louis XIV. The Musée de l’Ordre de la Libération pays homage to those who were awarded the prestigious Order of the Liberation during the Second World War. The medal was created by General de Gaulle in London in November 1940. Lastly, the new 1939-1945 spaces, inaugurated on 18 June 2000, retrace the major actions of the Resistance, Free France units and the Allies.

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