The Hôtel des Invalides (commonly called Les Invalides) is an architectural ensemble located in the 7th arrondissement in Paris (France), whose construction dates back to the 17th century. It was in fact ordered by Louis XIV on February 24, 1670 with the aim of welcoming disabled soldiers from his armies.

Remaining faithful to this mission, it is also today the headquarters of various military authorities, such as the military governor of Paris, and hosts several organizations dedicated to the memory of veterans and the support of wounded soldiers. It also houses the Saint-Louis-des-Invalides cathedral, several museums and a military necropolis, the main element of which is Napoleon’s tomb.

This vast architectural complex, designed by Libéral Bruand and Jules Hardouin-Mansart, is one of the masterpieces of classical French architecture.

The Hôtel des Invalides is located on the left bank of the Seine, not far from the Champ-de-Mars and the Eiffel Tower.

It is located at the level of the Alexandre III bridge, from which it is separated by the Esplanade des Invalides, facing (on the right bank) the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais.

It is connected to the center of Paris (5th and 6th arrondissements) by rue de Grenelle, rue de l’Université and rue Saint-Dominique.

As for the Paris metro, it is served by the Invalides, Varenne and La Tour-Maubourg stations.

History

Louis XIV initiated the project by an order dated 24 November 1670, as a home and hospital for aged and disabled (invalide) soldiers. The initial 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 façade fronting the Seine measured 196 metres (643 ft) in width, and the complex had fifteen courtyards, the largest being the cour d’honneur designed for military parades.

The church-and-chapel complex of the Invalides was designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart from 1676, taking inspiration from his great-uncle François Mansart’s design for a Chapelle des Bourbons to be built behind the chancel of the Basilica of Saint-Denis, the French monarch’s necropolis since ancient times. Several projects were submitted in the mid-1660s by both Mansart and Gian Lorenzo Bernini who was residing in Paris at the time.

The interior of the dome was painted by Le Brun’s disciple Charles de La Fosse with a Baroque illusionistic ceiling painting. The painting was completed in 1705.

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.

The Dome chapel became a military necropolis when Napoleon in September 1800 designated it for the relocation of the tomb of Louis XIV’s celebrated general Turenne, followed in 1807–1808 by Vauban. In 1835, the underground gallery below the church received the remains of 14 victims of the Giuseppe Marco Fieschi’s failed assassination attempt on Louis-Philippe I.

The most notable tomb at Les Invalides is that of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821), designed by Louis Visconti with sculptures by James Pradier, Pierre-Charles Simart and Francisque Joseph Duret. Napoleon was initially interred on Saint Helena, but King Louis Philippe arranged for his remains to be brought to France in 1840, an event known as le retour des cendres. Napoléon’s remains were kept in the Saint Jerome (southwestern) chapel of the Dome church for more than two decades until his final resting place, a tomb made of red quartzite and resting on a green granite base, was finished in 1861.

Working days:

Open every day of the year, except for the first Monday of every month, and January 1st, May 1st, November 1st and December 25th. Open from 10am to 5pm (5.30pm on sunday), from October 1st to mars 31th, and from 10am to 6pm (6.30 on sunday), from April 1st to September 30th.

Admission fee:

Full fee : 9 €
Discount fee : 7 € = war veterans, for everybody from 5 pm and on Tuesday evenings, groups with prior reservation, Paris Visite (card + travel coupon, during the validity period)
Free : children under 18 years old; 18 to 25 years old nationals of the European Union
One single ticket gives access to the Musée de l’Armée, to the Tomb of Napoleon I, to the Historial Charles de Gaulle (closed on Mondays), the Scale-Models Museum and to the Order of the Liberation Museum.

See more:

20 arrondissements of Paris

Architecture of Paris

Museums of Paris

Entertainment in Paris

Bridges in Paris

Parks in Paris

Streets and squares in Paris

Shopping in Paris

Transport in Paris

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