Les Invalides is a building complex with three major parts. This guide deals with the church of Les Invalides.
Les Invalides history
Les Invalides is a building complex with three major parts. This guide deals with the northern parts of Les Invalides, including the museum area. Make sure to also check out the other two Les Invalides guides which tells the story with the church and the dome.
The name “Les Invalides” is actually a shortened form of “Hôpital des Invalides” meaning “The hospital for invalids”. As hinted by its full name, the building complex was originally built as a large hospital for soldiers who had been wounded and injured during war. As a Latin inscription in the gate tells the visitors, the hospital was initiated by Louis XIV on November 24th 1670.
During the construction phase, Louis enlarged the project and added more and more structures around the original few. The first soldiers moved into the buildings already in 1674 and the complex was officially opened in 1675. When it all stood completed in 1676, the complex had fifteen courtyards.
The front side towards the river measured a massive 196 meters and still stands as grand as ever, with the massive Esplanade des Invalides to its north.
The military hospital was included in the south-east part of the complex, which was the place where soldiers who were badly injured were treated. The other parts of the Les Invalides, except the church and the dome structure, served more as a hotel where soldiers who had been injured – but who still could live a somewhat normal life – lived.
For this reason, “Hôpital des Invalides” is also sometimes known as “Hôtel des Invalides”. During the end of the 17th century, Les Invalides housed in total around 4000 soldiers.
Life at Les Invalides
The lives of the former soldiers were much like their previous life in the barracks, as they were divided into companies and still wore uniform. However, instead of getting military education, they worked together in workshops, making various items such as uniforms and shoes.
The project became an example to follow for many other European countries, which soon afterwards also opened homes for injured soldiers.
Why visit Les Invalides ?
One of the things that stand out with Les Invalides when entering from the north is the beautiful gate. Visitors can see a Latin inscription above the entrance. The inscription says “Louis the Great, by his royal generosity for his men for the continuation of times, founded this building in 1675.” In this case, Louis the Great refers to Louis XIV. On the left side of the inscription sits the virtue of wisdom and on the right the virtue of justice.
In between them one can see an equestrian statue of Louis himself and above this statue – a sun with a human face on it. The Sun is there due to the fact that Louis XIV was during his reign commonly known as “the Sun King”. The whole northern gate is commonly known as “Le Roi-Soleil” which means just that; The Sun King.
Both sides of the gate are adorned with a large statue. On the right side stand the Roman warrior goddess and the goddess of wisdom, Minerva, accompanied by her owl. To the left stands the Roman God of War, Mars, accompanied by his wolf companion.
When goring through the northern gate, visitors enter the largest of the Les Invalides fifteen courtyards; the Cour d’honneur. It was in this courtyard the larger military parades were held.
On the south side of the courtyard, towards the church and the dome, visitors can see that Napoleon Bonaparte still watches over his troops, even though he is a bit taller than we are used to and made entirely out of bronze.
Musée de l’Armée
Today a large part of the Les Invalides is dedicated to museums, the most famous one being the Musée de l’Armée; the Army Museum. This museum was opened 1905 and is considered one of the greatest art and military museums in the world.
The fact that the museum itself is located at the heart of a large historical site offers an exceptional aspect to it which few other museums can match.
Les Invalides location
Les Invalides is located in central Paris, France. Les Invalides is located in central Paris, in the 7th arrondissement, and thereby easily accessed by foot. If you want travel by metro, the best stations to get off at is La Tour-Maubourg (8) or Varenne (13).
For the exact location of Les Invalides, check out the location map provided to the right.