Les Invalides, Paris

Les Invalides

The dome of Les Invalides was built between 1679-1708 for Louis XIV as a royal church and an addition to the existing Hopital des Invalides which housed disabled army veterans. Inside it is an enormous space and feels like a piece of state propaganda, dwarfing the viewer and making you feel insignificant in the face of this massive celebration of royal power.

Here for example is the high altar and in the background you can see part of the Soldiers’ chapel with standards captured in battle and the 17th century organ.

Les Invalides - altar 2Looking up into the dome itself you can see a painting by Charles de la Fosse from 1692 depicting the Glory of Paradise with St Louis offering his sword to Christ:

Les Invalides - inside the dome

Les Invalides - dome painting

Of course the centrepiece of Les Invalides is the porphyry tomb of Napoleon in the crypt. Porphyry is the quintessential expression of imperial power and was the colour and preferred stone of the emperors of Byzantium. Over the entrance to the crypt are recorded Napoleon’s own words about being buried in Paris: “Je désire que mes cendres reposent sur les bords de la Seine, au milieu de ce peuple français que j’ai tant aimé”.

Les Invalides - tomb Napoleon

Also in the crypt is this statue – very much not life-size – of Napoleon in Imperial robes and holding imperial regalia.

Les Invalides - statue Napoleon

Les Invalides also houses the tombs of some of France’s greatest military leaders, including Marechal Foch:Les Invalides - tomb Marechal Foch

On the other side of Les Invalides is the Hopital des Invalides with its vast Cour d’Honneur (parade ground) – used most recently as the site for the event to celebrate the victims of the Bataclan terrorist attack:

Les Invalides - Cour d'honneur

Overlooking the Cour is Seurre’s rather sinister statue of Napoleon (‘Le petit caporal’):

Les Invalides - Napoleon in the Cour d'honneur

Finally here’s the front of the Hopital des Invalides:

Les Invalides - Entrance to the cour d'honneur

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