"Honor and Glory" Musée de l'Armee - Les Invalides Tip by goodfish
Musée de l'Armee - Les Invalides, Paris: 146 reviews and 344 photos
Hôtel des Invalides is a huge complex of 17th century structures built by Louis XIV as combination hospital and pension for injured or retired military personnel. It also has two impressive churches: Église du Dôme and Église St-Louis des Invalides.
The smaller and older of the two, Église St-Louis des Invalides, is a light and airy confection where recovering soldiers and elderly veterans housed in the dormitories worshipped. It was plundered of costly religious adornments and secularized during the French Revolution but revived under Napoleon I for bestowment ceremonies of the first Légion d'Honneur badges; the highest decoration in France. Today, the chapel honors military officers interred in a crypt below the sanctuary. Don't miss the gorgeous and very large organ high above the north end of the nave.
Adjoining the soldier's chapel - but separated by an ornate baldachin, altar and sheet of glass - is the somber and considerably more stately Dome Church. Not keen on mingling with masses, Louis had the Église du Dôme built exclusively for royal worship and as a future mausoleum for himself and his family. Didn't happen. Like its neighbor, Église St-Louis, this also became the final resting place of French military heroes; one in particular who draws the biggest crowd.
Napoleon I died in 1821 on the island of Saint Helena where he'd been exiled after his defeat at Waterloo. In 1840, King Louis Philippe I was granted approval from the British to have the remains exhumed and returned to France. This was carried out with much pomp and ceremony - although they weren't above prying open his multiple coffins and taking a peek to make sure it was him. According to this fascinating narrative (link below) the former emperor looked pretty good for being dead a couple of decades.
Upon being returned to French soil, he was given an elaborate funeral and placed in a side chapel of the church until a more grandiose crypt could be constructed. It took another 20 years to excavate and decorate the circular well directly under the gold-plated dome where his coffins - all 6 of them - lie encased in a massive sarcophagus of red, Russian porphyry. Around the tomb are a dozen winged figures symbolizing his military achievements. For company his son, Napoleon II, and two brothers, Joseph and Jerome, are buried in other areas of the church as well as WWI Marshall Ferdinand Foch, Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle - composer La Marseillaise - and many others.
Entrance to the churches is covered under the Paris Museum Pass as well as three other museums in the complex we didn't visit: Musée de l'Armée, Musée des Plans-Reliefs and Musée de l'ordre de la Libération. Otherwise, see the website for hours and ticket prices (click dropdown in upper right of the home page for multi-lingual translations.)
Address: Hôtel national des Invalides 129 rue de Grenelle
Directions: Just look for the gold dome. It's hard to miss.
Phone: +33 1 44 42 43 87
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