Invalides was built in the 17th century beyond the command of Louis XIV to construct a hospital. Invalides means 'wounded soldiers'. The main use of this building was the rehabilitation center for 4,000 warriors when many wars were taking place. Currently, there are Les Invalides where the coffin of Napoleon is situated, Hôtel des Invalides, Cathedrale Saint-Louis des Invalides, and the Army Museum. As they consist of various collections related to French and European history, it would be a more exciting place for those who are interested in history.
One of the greatest leader of France and an emperor of the French, Napoleon. His tomb is gloriously buried at Invalides. It is located in the magnificent building with the golden roof dome. There are also the coffins of significant figures in French military history such as Joseph Napoleon Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon and former King of Spain.
A symbol of Les Invalides is the gold dome roof which is also magnificent from the inside. The paintings of Jesus and the twelve apostles are expressed in a delicate and colorful method. The roof was made of over 50,000 copper plates and in 1715 it was clad with gold for the first time. After, 40kg of gold was used to make it more glamorous in order to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution in 1989.
'Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools.' A quote of one figure has been well-known throughout the world. And his coffin is kept on the underground floor of Invalides. The appearance of his tomb seems moderate and simple, rather than being splendor. In fact, a total of six types of coffins are covered on his body in a stabilized structure. Napoleon's troop was defeated in the battle of Waterloo in 1815 and he was exiled to one of the islands in the South Atlantic. He ended his life there at the age of 52. After eight years of effort by Louis Philip, Napoleon's body was returned to Paris in 1840 and placed in this spot.
On the right side of Napoleon's tomb, there is the coffin of his son Napoleon II Francois Joseph Charles. Here's another surprising story. Hitler, leader of the Nazi Party, considered Napoleon as his role-model. Once Hitler attacked Paris in 1940, he kindly put Francois Joseph Charles' corpse next to his father's coffin.
On the back side of Napoleon's grave, the Saint Louis Des Invalides Cathedral is located. Its wall is decorated with various flags drawn from enemy troops when France defeated other kingdoms. It makes for a calm and stringent atmosphere with a gorgeous view. The cathedral is now used as a place for the funeral of French soldiers.
When you come out of the cathedral, you will find a big courtyard named Cour d'honneur. The cannons that were used from the end of the 15th century until World War I are located in this courtyard of honor. The 'cannon of victories' from 17th and 18th century are still used on the important days such as the anniversary of the World War I Armistice Agreement. And you might find a bronze statue of Napoleon on the second floor.
Another attraction is the Army Museum. From the Medieval Feudal Age to the Bourbon Dynasty, through the Napoleonic Age to the First and Second World War. All war utensils, combat uniforms, and various tools used in the long period of French military history are exhibited. The displays of the Army Museum are separated by era and country. So, it is convenient to visit according to the timeline or your own interest. On the third floor of the building on the left side, there is a Napoleon exhibition hall where you can observe firearms, telescopes, clothes, and hats that Napoleon actually used. In the basement level of the same building, there is another exhibition hall of Charles de Gaulle, another significant figure of France.
In Invalides, there are not only Napoleon's tomb but also a cathedral and large-size army museum. So it is recommended to have enough time to visit (about 2-3 hours). Additionally, if you are interested in purchasing souvenirs related to Napoleon, visit the souvenir boutique in Invalides. There is a wide collection: from books for children to interior items for adults.
The 2019 Invalides illumination show will run from July 12th to August 30th, so if you are interested, make a reservation on the website.
Words and Photographs by Youra CHOI
Address : 129 Rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris, France
Transportation : Metro line 8 La Tour-Maubourg / Metro line 8,13, RER C Invalides
Opening hours : April-October daily 10:00-18:00 / November-March daily 10:00-17:00 (First Monday of each month only open for the restricted area)
Admission fee : General 12 euros / 18-25 years old students 10 euros (Free entrance with Museum Pass)
Website : Click here