Hôtel des Invalides

During his reign Louis XIV decided that a place needed to be built to shelter the soldiers who were either wounded in battle, or too old to serve in the army. There was no other establishment like it, and as a noble gesture, Louis XIV commissioned its building, which was completed in 1674, about 3 years after construction began. The hotel was built to hold 4000 war veterans. On the advice of the war minister to Louis XIV, a church was added to the building complex. This was in 1676 and completed in 1679 when it was first opened to the soldiers. The name that had been initially assigned to the church is the pensioner’s Choir, but it was later changed to the Soldier’s Church. Another church was added. Known as the Royal Chapel, or the Dome des Invalides, the church was a royal property as only the royal family used the church for worship.

In Hôtel des Invalides, the soldiers who resided were divided into companies, and with an officer put in charge, they used to engage in manual work such as shoemaking and working in workshops. For the very sick or severely wounded soldiers, a hospital was built in the South Easter section of the Hotel. With a capacity of 100 beds, the hospital served to nurse the soldiers back to health. It’s a hospital that is still and used for the same purpose it was those many centuries back.

The Hôtel des Invalides is one of the interesting places to visit if you ever find yourself in the 7th arrondissement in Paris. What strikes you first is the neoclassical architectural style that oozes from the complex, more so with the Royal Chapel with its signature Dome. There are many courtyards in the Hotel, with the main court of honor (cour d’honneur) being the biggest and the most significant. There complex is rich in war memorabilia which is placed in the Military Museum (Musee de L’Armee). It is richly historical, with military information from many decades before- as far back as the middle ages. There are many kinds of weapons archived in the museum from not only France but also the rest of the world. Also present are uniforms, equipment and other war material. There are two other museums- Musée des Plans-Reliefs and the Musée de l'ordre de la Libération. The former museum is dedicated to maps and models of France, the cities it had, and all the fortresses around it, which are dated to as early as the 17th century. Another interesting attraction is the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte. This was not his initial burial place. His remains were ordered back to French soil, and were encased in 7 different caskets. All of them are in his tomb which is a massive structure inside the Royal Church.

The two churches are also great attractions at the Hôtel des Invalides. The Soldier’s Church was frequently used at the time of its establishment, as a daily mass was held there that had to be attended. It was dedicated to Saint-Louis and it is sometimes referred to as the church Saint-Louis. The church has many tombs of many great military leaders. The Dome Church is a magnificent structure, displaying some of the best classical work in the whole of Paris. The Dome is high reaching at 105m and dots the breathtaking Paris panoramic landscape. The dome was regilded in leaves of gold during the second century anniversary of the French Revolution. The Hotel des Invalides is arguably one of the best visits in Paris, more so if you are into war memorabilia.