Sunday, October 22, 2006

Paris - Hôtel des Invalides/Tombeau de Napoléon

One of our next stops was l'Hôtel des Invalides and le Tombeau de Napoléon (Napoleon's tomb).

In 1670, Louis XIV - the Sun King - founded Les Invalides near what was then called the Grenelle Plain. An old soldiers home, it was funded by a five year levy on the salaries of soldiers currently serving in the army at that time. The first stones were laid in 1671, for what was to become a complex providing quarters for 4,000. Construction followed plans drawn up by Libéral Bruant, and was completed in 1676. The Esplandade was layed out by Robert de Cotte.

Construction of the dome began in 1706. It was designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and completed by de Cotte after Mansart died in 1708.

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 of that day. Despite resistence by the posted sentries, they were overwhelmed by the mob which finally entered the underground rifle storehouse. Roughly 28,000 arms were taken.

Les Invalides houses the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) in the crypt under Mansart's dome. Napoleon was initially interred on Saint Helena, but King Louis-Philippe arranged for his remains to be brought to St Jerome's Chapel in Paris in 1840. A renovation of Les Invalides took many years, but in 1861 Napoleon was moved to the most prominent location under the dome at Les Invalides.

A popular tourist site today, Les Invalides is also the burial site for some of Napoleon's family, for several military officers who served under him, and other French military heroes.
Sources: Les Cars Rouges, Wikipedia: Les Invalides, Paris Pages: Les Invalides

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