Les Invalides is a building complex with three major parts. This guide deals with the church of Les Invalides.
For the complete history of Hôpital des Invalides, first check out the Les Invalides guide!
Church of Les Invalides history
Soon after the main Hôpital des Invalides had been completed, Louis XIV decided that the veterans also required a chapel to pray in. The soldiers’ chapel opened in 1677 – only one year after the completion of the main Hôpital des Invalides. The chapel was officially finished later, in 1679. The chapel is known as “Église Saint-Louis des Invalides”. After it had been completed, daily attendance was required for all the veterans staying at Les Invalides.
During the French Revolution, buildings and symbols of the monarchy and the Catholic Church were often attacked and damaged. The Église Saint-Louis was no exception and the church was ransacked during the revolution. As a result, it lost many of its treasures.
During a period after the revolution, the church was unofficially said to have lost its religious purpose and it was unofficially renamed to “The temple of Mars” after the Roman god of War.
After the Revolution, all French orders of chivalry were abolished. Later when Napoleon Bonaparte came to power, he wanted to reward civilians and soldiers for their brave deeds and not for their nobility rankings.
This led to the formation of a new Order called Légion d’Honneur; the Legion of Honor. The Order’s very first decoration ceremony took place here in this church on July 15th, 1804.
The troublesome times of the Revolution was not the only time the church lost some of its valuable treasures. The church also lost many of its flags and banners when the Governor of Les Invalides burned them in 1814. He didn’t burn them without a reason though.
During this time France had lost the Napoleonic Wars and the enemy Coalition forces were surrounding Paris, so it was simply an act to prevent the enemy from capturing all flags and banners.
In 1837, the chapel area of Église Saint-Louis was separated from dome area by a large glass wall. From that date and on, the chapel area is considered to be the Église Saint-Louis des Invalides and the dome area has been given a new name; Église du Dôme.
Why visit Church of Les Invalides ?
Église Saint-Louis is truly one of a kind. When entering this church, visitors say it is unlike any other church in Paris. In contrast to many of the Gothic churches in Paris, the Saint-Louis church is very light and the much of the interior consists of white shining marble.
Another thing which distinguishes the church is its connection to the Les Invalides with its military background.
Strong military background
This background is embraced throughout the church, as visitors can see a multitude of different banners and flags hanging from the walls. The church is also unique in the fact that it is still rather unknown, despite being located on a major tourist site.
Many of the people who visit the church never heard of it prior to their Paris visit, so it is still somewhat of a hidden gem inside the Les Invalides. Another evidence of the church’s military connection can be found under it, in its crypt. Under Les Invalides and Église Saint-Louis lie a large number of French 19th and 20th century officers and generals interred.
The soliders church
“The Soldiers Church”, as it is sometimes called, is not only known for its military background. The church also houses one of the largest instruments in France; its beautiful organ. The organ is located at the back of the chapel, above the entrance.
Anyone who has seen it will tell you it is not only large, but also very beautiful. The original organ was built during year 1686, but has throughout the year received many restorations. There are still however, some original stops from the 17th century left in the organ.
Church of 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.