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!
Dome of Les Invalides history
Unkown to many, is that the name “Les Invalides” is actually a shortened form of “Hôpital des Invalides” meaning “The Hospital for Invalids”. Hinted in its name, the building complex was originally built as a large hospital and home for soldiers who had been injured during war.
Les Invalides was initiated by King Louis XIV on November 24th 1670 and the building complex stood finished later in 1675. The chapel area of Les Invalides was added shortly after the completion of the main area and the veteran’s chapel was finished in year 1679.
Église du Dôme
Shortly after the veterans’ chapel was completed, Louis XIV constructed a separate private royal chapel, which was named “Église du Dôme”. The architect for the dome was Jules Hardouin-Mansart and the royal chapel stood finished 1706, in which it was inaugurated by the king himself. The royal chapel is considered one of the very finest examples of French Baroque architecture.
The dome itself was inspired by the origin of all Baroque domes; the dome of the grand St. Peters Basilica in Rome. The Église du Dôme has in turn been the inspiration for several other buildings, including the San Francisco City Hall.
In 1989 during the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, the dome itself was regilded for the 5th time since its creation. During the process, a large number of thin gold leaves were used. The total weight equaled around ten kilos pure gold.
Why visit Dome of Les Invalides ?
Église du Dôme is without a doubt one of the most beautiful buildings in Paris. The dome is one is not only beautiful on the outside; its interior is breathtaking. The magnificent paintings covering the roof are the works of Église du Dôme, originating from late 17th, early 18th century.
While the gold-glimmering dome is certainly impressive, the Église du Dôme is most known for what it stores inside. The dome is not so much used as a religious chapel; it is rather used as a military mausoleum. The dome provides the final rest for several well noted French military leaders, the most famous one being Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
After his defeat in the battle of Waterloo, the new French ruler Louis XVIII – who had been installed by the victorious Coalition forces – had Napoleon exiled to the British island of Sankt Helena outside West Africa. The island became Napoleon’s home until his death in 1821.
Later, under the rule of King Louis-Philippe, Napoleon was brought back to France after seven years of negotiations with the British Government. His remains were brought to Les Invalides in which his tomb was placed in the center of the dome in year 1861, where it still stands today.
The massive tomb of Napoleon is made of a brownish red material. This material is called Russian red porphyry while the base of the tomb is made of green granite from the Vosges. Visitors paying extra attention to the tomb will see inscriptions surrounding it. These inscriptions are all the locations of some of Napoleons largest victories, for example the battle of the Pyramids in 1798 and the battle of Friedland in 1807.
Surrounding the tomb is several white marble statues, all looking at the tomb in homage and gratitude for their great leader. By going down in the circular gallery surrounding the tomb, visitors will see friezes in the wall which often depicts Napoleon, sitting on his throne as the supreme emperor.
While the dome area is often rather full of visitors, there is a certain aura of calmness and respect surrounding Napoleon and his tomb.
The tomb of napoleon is of course the center piece in the dome area, but the dome also houses several other tombs. In one of the side rooms lies the tomb of Ferdinand Foch – the French military leader during World War One. His tomb is arranged as a large statue, where his soldiers are carrying his coffin. Inside Église du Dôme, visitors can also find the tombs of Jospeh and Jérôme Bonapartre, Napoleons two brothers.
The Église du Dôme also holds the heart of Vauban. Vauban was the best military engineer of his age. During the French Revolution, the remains of Vauban was scattered. However, his heart was found and brought to rest in this very place.
The dome also holds the tomb of Turenne, a Marshal General of France who lived during the 17th century who served as a military role model for Napoleon himself. These people are just a few of all the French military leaders who rest in the Les Invalides.
Les Invalides in general – and Église du Dôme in particular – is definitely a must-see when visiting Paris.
Dome 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.