Les Invalides in Paris

Wednesday, 14 March 2018 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Museums, Exhibitions, Palaces, Castles, Manors, Parks, Paris / Île-de-France
Reading Time:  8 minutes

Hôtel des Invalides, as seen from the Tour Montparnasse © Jens Peter Clausen/cc-by-sa-3.0

Hôtel des Invalides, as seen from the Tour Montparnasse © Jens Peter Clausen/cc-by-sa-3.0

Les Invalides, commonly known as Hôtel national des Invalides (The National Residence of the Invalids), or also as Hôtel des Invalides, is a complex of buildings in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building’s original purpose. The buildings house the Musée de l’Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d’Histoire Contemporaine, as well as the Dôme des Invalides, a large church with the tombs of some of France’s war heroes, most notably Napoleon Bonaparte.

Louis XIV initiated the project by an order dated 24 November 1670, as a home and hospital for aged and unwell soldiers: the name is a shortened form of hôpital des invalides. The architect of Les Invalides was Libéral Bruant. The selected site was in the then suburban plain of Grenelle (plaine de Grenelle). By the time the enlarged project was completed in 1676, the river front measured 196 metres (643 ft) and the complex had fifteen courtyards, the largest being the cour d’honneur (“court of honour”) for military parades. It was then felt that the veterans required a chapel. Jules Hardouin-Mansart assisted the aged Bruant, and the chapel was finished in 1679 to Bruant’s designs after the elder architect’s death. This chapel was known as Église Saint-Louis des Invalides, and daily attendance of the veterans in the church services was required. Shortly after the veterans’ chapel was completed, Louis XIV commissioned Mansart to construct a separate private royal chapel referred to as the Église du Dôme from its most striking feature. The domed chapel was finished in 1708.

Cour d'Honneur © Juan Carlos Cordovez-Mantilla/cc-by-sa-3.0 Dôme des Invalides © Benh/cc-by-2.5 Hôtel des Invalides, as seen from the Tour Montparnasse © Jens Peter Clausen/cc-by-sa-3.0 Northern façade © Thesupermat/cc-by-sa-3.0 Tomb of Joseph Bonaparte © flickr.com - Son of Groucho/cc-by-2.0 Hôtel des Invalides © Eric Gaba/cc-by-sa-3.0 Tomb of Napoleon © Thesupermat/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Hôtel des Invalides, as seen from the Tour Montparnasse © Jens Peter Clausen/cc-by-sa-3.0
Later history
Because of its location and significance, the Invalides served as the scene for several key events in French history. On 14 July 1789 it was stormed by Parisian rioters who seized the cannons and muskets stored in its cellars to use against the Bastille later the same day. Napoleon was entombed under the dome of the Invalides with great ceremony in 1840. In December 1894 the degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus was held before the main building, while his subsequent rehabilitation ceremony took place in a courtyard of the complex in 1906. The building retained its primary function of a retirement home and hospital for military veterans (invalides) until the early twentieth century. In 1872 the musée d’artillerie (Artillery Museum) was located within the building to be joined by the musée historique des armées (Historical Museum of the Armies) in 1896. The two institutions were merged to form the present musée de l’armée in 1905. At the same time the veterans in residence were dispersed to smaller centres outside Paris. The reason was that the adoption of a mainly conscript army, after 1872, meant a substantial reduction in the numbers of veterans having the twenty or more years of military service formerly required to enter the Hôpital des Invalides. The building accordingly became too large for its original purpose. The modern complex does however still include the facilities detailed below for about a hundred elderly or incapacitated former soldiers.

Architecture
On the north front of Les Invalides Hardouin-Mansart’s chapel dome is large enough to dominate the long façade, yet harmonizes with 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 Alexandre III links this grand urbanistic axis with the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais. The Pont des Invalides is next, downstream the Seine river. The buildings still comprise the Institution Nationale des Invalides, a national institution for disabled war veterans. The institution comprises: A retirement home, a medical and surgical centre, and a centre for external medical consultations.

Churches at Les Invalides
In 1676 Jules Hardouin-Mansart was commissioned to construct a place of worship on the site. He designed a building which combined a royal chapel (now Dôme des Invalides) with a veterans’ chapel (now Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides). In this way, the King and his soldiers could attend mass simultaneously, while entering the place of worship though different entrances, as prescribed by court etiquette. This separation was reinforced in the 19th century with the erection of the tomb of Napoleon I, the creation of the two separate altars and then with the construction of a glass wall between the two chapels.

The Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides
When the Army Museum at Les Invalides was founded in 1905, the veterans’ chapel was placed under its administrative control. It is now the cathedral of the Diocese of the French Armed Forces, officially known as Cathédrale Saint-Louis-des-Invalides.

Dôme des Invalides
The Dôme des Invalides (originally Chapelle royale des Invalides) is a large former church in the centre of the Les Invalides complex, 107 metres (351 ft) high. The dôme was designated to become Napoleon’s funeral place by a law dated 10 June 1840. The excavation and erection of the crypt, that heavily modified the interior of the domed church, took twenty years to complete and was finished in 1861. Inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the original for all baroque domes, the Dôme des Invalides is one of the triumphs of French Baroque architecture. Mansart raised its drum with an attic storey over its main cornice, and employed the paired columns motif in his more complicated rhythmic theme. The general programme is sculptural but tightly integrated, rich but balanced, consistently carried through, capping its vertical thrust firmly with a ribbed and hemispherical dome. The domed chapel is centrally placed to dominate the court of honour. The interior of the dome was painted by Le Brun‘s disciple Charles de La Fosse with a Baroque illusion of space (sotto in su) seen from below. The painting was completed in 1705.

Read more on Musée de l’Armée, france.fr – Night at the Invalides and Wikipedia Les Invalides (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.






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