Les Invalides in Paris, France consists of a complex of buildings in the 7th arrondissement, now containing museums and monuments, all relating to France’s military history, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building’s original purpose. It is also the burial site for some of France’s war heroes.
King Louis XIV initiated the project by an order dated November 24, 1670, as a home and hospital for aged and unwell soldiers: the name is a shortened form of hôpital des invalides, the hospital for invalids. The architect of Les Invalides was Liberal Bruant. The selected site was suburban in the 17th century. By the time the enlarged project was completed in 1676, the river front measured 196 meters and the complex had fifteen courtyards, the largest being the cour d’honneur (“court of honor”) for military parades.
Then it was felt that the veterans required a chapel, in which Jules Hardouin Mansart assisted the aged Bruant, and finished it in 1679 to Bruant’s designs after the elder architect’s death. Compulsory daily attendance was required.
Shortly after the veterans’ chapel was completed, Louis XIV had Mansart construct a separate private royal chapel, the church of St. Louis des Invalides, often referred to as the Dôme des Invalides from its most striking feature. Inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome (left) the original for all Baroque domes, it’s one of the triumphs of French Baroque architecture. Mansart raises his drum with an attic storey over its main cornice, and employs the paired columns motif in his more complicated rhythmic theme of || u ||. The general program is sculptural but tightly integrated, rich but balanced, consistently carried through capping its vertical thrust firmly with a less emphatically ribbed and hemispherical dome. The domed chapel is centrally placed to dominate the court of honor. It was finished in 1708.
The interior of the dome was painted by Le Brun’s disciple Charles de La Fosse (1636 – 1716) with a Baroque illusion of space seen from below (sotto in su perspective, the Italians were calling it). The painting was completed in 1705.
The most notable tomb at Les Invalides is that of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) in the crypt under Mansart’s dome. Napoleon was initially interred on Saint Helena, but King Louis-Philippe arranged for his remains to be brought to St Jerome’s Chapel in Paris in 1840. A renovation of Les Invalides took many years, but in 1861 Napoleon was moved to the most prominent location under the dome at Les Invalides.
A popular tourist site today, Les Invalides is also the burial site for some of Napoleon’s family, for several military officers who served under him, and other French military heroes such as:
Joseph Bonaparte (1768 – 1845) — Napoleon’s eldest brother;
Jerome Bonaparte (1785 – 1851) — Napoleon’s youngest brother;
Napoleon II of France (1812 – 1833) — son of Napoleon;
Geraud Duroc (1774 – 1814) – Officer who fought with Napoleon;
Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle (1760 – 1836) Army captain, he is the author of France’s national anthem, La Marseillaise;
Ferdinand Foch (1851 – 1929) – French Marshall during the First World War;
Henri de la Tour d’Auvergne (1611- 1675), better known as the Viscount de Turenne, he was Marshal of France under King Louis XIV and is one of France’s greatest military leaders.
the heart of Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban – the designer of Louis XIV’s military fortifications
On the north front of Les Invalides (illustration, left) Hardouin-Mansart’s chapel dome is large enough to dominate the long facade yet harmonizes with Libéral 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 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 des Invalides links this grand urbanistic axis with the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais.
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 (official site), a national institution for disabled war veterans. The institution comprises:
- a retirement home
- a medical and surgical center
- a center for external medical consultations.