Les Invalides, or known as L’Hôtel national des Invalides in its original language which literary means The National Residence of the Invalids, is a complex of buildings which functions as museums, monuments, hospital, and most importantly retirement house for French war veterans. The three museums located in Les Invalides are, Musée de l’Armée which is a military museum of the French Army, Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and Musée d’Histoire Contemporain. There is also a cemetery located nearby the area which is built to bury French war heroes such as Napoleon Bonaparte.
History of Les Invalides
Les Invalides was built with the order from Louis XIV, a French King who was famous for his engagement in many wars, in 1670. He instructed the construction of a hospital to hold his wounded soldiers and a home for aged soldiers. The architect who was assigned to design Les Invalides was Liberal Bruant.
To build Les Invalides, Louis XIV chose an area in the suburban of Grenelle. The first completion of the complex took place in 1676. It was located in an area of fifteen courtyards on a river front which expanded for 196 meters long. Later, a chapel was added to the complex, realizing that the veterans needed a chapel for their old days. The chapel was designed by Jules Hardouin Mansart with assist from Bruant who was already an old man that time. The chapel, later named Église Saint-Louis des Invalides, was finished in 1679 after Bruant’s death.
Inspired with the building of the veteran’s chapel, Louis XIV then instructed Mansart to build another chapel, this time exclusively for the royals. The royal chapel was built to mimic St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, therefore, it has such a grand architecture. Mansart put his best effort on this chapel and finally finished it in 1708.
Les Invalides has become the eye witness for several important events in France history. The complex was attacked by rioters on July 14, 1789 during the infamous French Revolution and they seized its cannon to attack Bastille. Les Invalides was also the witness of the degradation and rehabilitation ceremonies of Captain Alfred Dreyfus.
Les Invalides Today
Today, people visit Les Invalides because of its museums and the beauty of the area. However, the museums were only built in the 19th century until early 20th century. Still, tourists can still see the veteran residence which can hold up to one hundred former soldiers.
The cemetery in Les Invalides is home to several notable figures’ graves. The most famous one is Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb. The king’s tomb was made of red quartzite and green granite base which was finished in 1861.
There are also some other prominent French military figures who were buried in Les Invalides cemetery such as Pierre Auguste Roques (1856–1920), founder of the French Air Forceand Minister of War in 1916 and Ferdinand Foch (1851–1929), Marshal of France, Allied Supreme Commander in the First World War.
Visiting Les Invalides
To visit Les Invalides, you can walk from Champs Elysees crossing the Alexandre III bridge. You can also take metro on line 13 and stop at Varenne station.
Le Invalides is open everyday from 10pm to 5pm from April to September.