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Visit the Invalides

You can’t visit Paris without visiting Invalides! At 101 meters high, its dome is a point of reference in Paris’s skyline and a jewel of classical architecture.

Louis XIV’s Invalides

In 1671, on the Grenelle plain, Louis the 14th decided to build Invalides as a home for injured soldiers and career military men who were too old to remain in the army. What a beautiful recognition of the soldiers who had fought for him… or what a surreptitious way to distance the cripples who once panhandled in the streets of Paris? Whatever his motivation, Louis the 14th never did things halfway.

The Invalides building itself was the work of Libéral Bruant. It was a real little city, made up of dormitories for the officers, refectories, an infirmary, workshops and a church. As the king could only enter the church through the same entrance as the commoners, architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart added a second church, the Church of the Dome, with an entrance and courtyard specifically for the monarch. He covered it with the magnificent golden dome that you can still admire today, shining in the sun. It’s covered in more than ten kilos of gold!

Napoleon’s Invalides

In 1840, King Louis-Philippe ordered the repatriation of Napoleon’s ashes, which were then placed in a crypt under the dome of the church, designed by architect Visconti. It was a tomb that lived up to the megalomania of the person laid to rest within it: five coffins one inside the other like Russian dolls: tin, mahogany, lead and ebony, placed inside a monumental pink quartz sarcophagus. The sarcophagus itself sits atop a pedestal of green granite, surrounded by twelve marble statues, representing the victories of the emperor.

During your discovery of Invalides, be sure to visit the Army Museum, which is home to an illustration of military history throughout the ages, from the Stone Age to the end of the Second World War. Armor, weapons, uniforms, trophies, flags, models of fortified cities by Vauban… these things and more are sure to enchant any visitor with a warrior’s spirit!

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