Les Invalides, Paris

This is the first time we have visited Les Invalides, not sure why maybe because war museums are not high on the list when we travel even though we love the war museum in Canberra Australia. Les Invalides was first built as a hospital for war victims.

Internal court lined with French canons. Many of the arms used by the mob when it attacked the Bastille on 14 July 1789 were taken from Les Invalide on the morning and the sentries were overwhelmed by the mob and they entered the underground rifle storehouse. Around 28,000 arms were taken.

Napoleon overlooks the courtyard. I wanted to see the tomb of Napoleon being interested in this period of French history and having seen many of Napoleon’s homes and other landmarks of his campaigns.

I was gobsmacked by the scale of the tomb. When away from the battlefields he was surrounded by grandeur and his reputation has been both celebrated and sullied but I did not think his successors would end up going as far as they have making the tomb the centrepiece of a very grand building. However these pars below from Paris.org explains the exalted edifice.

‘The most significant event in the history of Les Invalides however, is unquestionably the return of the body of Napoléon in 1840. After seven years of negotiation with the British government, Louis-Philippe, King of France, obtained permission to repatriate the Emperor’s remains from St. Helena. On 8 October 1840 – 19 years after the death of the Emperor – the coffin was exhumed and opened for two minutes before transport to France aboard the frigate La Belle Poule. Those present claim that the body remained in a state of perfect preservation.

After arriving at Le Havre, it was brought up the Seine and landed at Paris at Courbevoie. On 15 December 1840 a state funeral was held, and despite a winter snowstorm, the hearse proceeded from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs-Elysées, across the Place de la Concorde to the Esplanade and finally to the cupola in St Jerome’s Chapel until the tomb – designed by Visconti – was completed. On 3 April 1861 Napoléon I came to his final rest in the crypt under de dome.’

South entrance a lovely garden.

In the garden at the south entrance a statue of Francois Mansart the architect. The slate sloping roofs that conveniently house attic rooms have been attributed to him but he did not originate the roof style but revived and used it extensively so it became known as Mansard style.

Conscription numbers back in the museum. I found the first world war museum more interesting mainly because of how rudimentary the equipment was in those days. The uniforms brought it all to life particularly when a uniform worn by a person whose actions were pivotel in the war.  When we paid our entry we were disappointed that they were out of English guide booklets but once inside we found the exhibits included english in the descriptions and many of the audio visual displays had an English language button.

One chilling display though was in the world war II museum, a uniform of a Nazi officer since I have only ever seen a photo or one in movies.

This small motor bike was able to be folded and shipped in a cylinder, ingenious.

Uniforms here would form the basis of inspiration for many designers, not to be frivolous about this serious display but I was taken with the materials, cut and adornment of many uniforms.

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  1. #1 by mary D on October 11, 2010 - 8:19 am

    Sigh! Beautiful Paris – everything is done well in that city..
    Love the folding bicycle.

  2. #2 by Debra Kolkka on October 11, 2010 - 6:22 pm

    I too, was very impressed by the size of Napoleon’s tomb – and the rest of the place as well.

  3. #3 by Paul on August 21, 2014 - 7:10 pm

    I was a little bit disappointed that I didn’t see any Australian memorabilia.Did I miss this?

    • #4 by tastetravel on August 22, 2014 - 1:55 am

      There were some Australian medals – as I recall.

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