Les Invalides - History and Facts | History Hit

Les Invalides

Paris, Ile-de-France, France

Les Invalides was originally built by Louis XIV as a hospital for ailing soldiers and is where Napoleon was laid to rest.

Peta Stamper

24 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Les Invalides

Les Invalides, or formally The National Residence of the Invalids, is a group of buildings in Paris’ 7th Arrondissement containing museums and monuments dedicated to French military history. Today, the complex still provides a home for a small number of former soldiers.

Les Invalides history

Les Invalides was a project ordered by Louis XIV in 1670 as a hospital and home for aged and injured soldiers. Designed by architect Libéral Bruant, the immense complex was completed in 1676, and boasted 15 courtyards, the largest being the cour d’honneur for military parades. By 1679, a second designer, Jules Hardouin-Mansart, finished both a chapel for the veterans and a private royal chapel known as the Église du Dôme for its 107m high domed roof that dominated the Paris skyline.

As the French Revolution dawned on 14 July 1789, Les Valides was stormed by rioters to seize the weapons stored there, in the process attacking an incarnation of French royalty’s military might. The weapons taken were used later the same day to take the Bastille.

From the 19th century, Les Valides continued to serve as a symbol of French power and integrity: Napoleon was entombed under the great dome in 1840, and in 1894, the degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus and his subsequent rehabilitation (1906) took place in front of the main building. All the while the complex retained its original purpose as a home for veterans, until the early 20th century, when veterans were homed in smaller complexes outside Paris.

From 1905, the building predominantly became home to the Musée de l’Armée.

Les Invalides today

Take a stroll through the formal lawns and gardens before exploring the collection of 50,000 objects housed by the Musee de l’Armée. The permanent collection includes military artefacts from the 13th to the 17th century. Visitors can walk through time viewing items from Antiquity to the Renaissance, stopping to learn about the Napoleonic Empires and two World Wars.

Visiting the museum, touring the grand tomb of Napoleon, and watching the presentation on Charles de Gaulle, will give you a thorough appreciation of how France has been shaped by war.

Getting to Les Invalides

From the nearby Élysée Palace or Musee du Louvre, Les Invalides is only a 2km walk away.  Via public transport from the Gare du Nord Station, you can reach Les Invalides by Metro, lines 4 and 8. The nearest bus stop is Esplanade des Invalides on the 69 bus.

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