The most ambitious project under Louis XIV after Versailles, the Hôtel des Invalides was designed to house reformed soldiers. Today it houses no less than 4 museums and the tomb of Napoleon I.
In 1670, Louis XIV, both scandalised and uncomfortable at seeing so many former soldiers begging in the streets of the capital, ordered the construction of the sumptuous Hôtel des Invalides, which, as its name suggests, was intended for soldiers who had been discharged from the army because of their age or disability. It was the most ambitious building project of the reign, after Versailles. The plans were designed by the architect Liberal Bruant, who also designed the Place Vendôme and the Hôtel de la Salpêtrière. Jules-Hardouin Mansart, his pupil, took over the project and was responsible for supervising the work. The conduct of the boarders was very strict, reflecting the austere and grandiose architecture.
History of the Invalides
As early as 1690, some 6,000 men sought asylum there, although it was only designed for 1,500 boarders. Monarchs from all over Europe were inspired to create their own military hospitals. The building's royal chapel was built in 1706. Its daring dome sparkles in gold and reaches a height of 107 metres. Inside, the large fresco painted under the dome by Charles de la Fosse has recently been restored. In 1840, the ashes of Napoleon I were deposited here and the chapel became an imperial mausoleum. In 1861, the Emperor's porphyry tomb, a colossal work by the Italian Visconti, was built in the funerary crypt in the centre of the dome.
A concentration of collections and memoribilia of all kinds
Ideally situated opposite the Seine, the Alexandre III bridge and the Grand Palais, four museums are located within the Invalides. The Musée de l'Armée, founded in 1905, is one of the most complete military museums in the world. The collections of paintings, armour, weapons, uniforms and memorabilia of all kinds span the centuries, from Antiquity to the Second World War. The armour of François I and the death mask of Napoleon are on display, among others. The Museum of Plans and Reliefs houses numerous models of cities, ports and strongholds made on the orders of Louis XIV. The Museum of the Order of the Liberation pays tribute to those who earned this prestigious decoration during the Second World War. The Order was created by General de Gaulle, then in London, in November 1940. Finally, the new 1939-1945 areas, inaugurated on 18 June 2000, retrace the major actions of the Resistance, the Free French units and the Allies.