hôtel des Invalides.
The Hôtel des Invalides was founded by Louis XIV in 1760 as an
abode for some seven thousand old invalid Soldiers. The Hotel des Invalides
was completed in 1676 and its beauty was enhanced when Mansart added the
Dome between 1679 and 1706. In 1840, Napoléon's ashes were brought
back to France, and on 15th December were placed in a superb sarcophagus,
under the Dôme des Invalides.
The majestic facade is 210 meters long. There is a magnificent portal
in the middle, and a pavillon at each. Decorative trophies have been placed
round the attic windows. An equestrian statue of Louis XIV stands in front,
and in the Quadrangle is a statue of the « Little Corporal ».
The fourth side of the Quadrangle is closed by the facade of the Saint-Louis
des Invalides church. In the Napoléon side-chapel are a plaster
death mask of the Emperor, Iying on his death bed and his tombstone, which
was brought back from St-Helena. Berlioz's Requiem was given its first
public performance in the Saint-Louis des Invalides Church, in 1837. The
Galerie de l'Occident (western Gallery), leads to the Musée de
l'Armée, the most important military collection in the world. The
Corridor de Metz leads to a garden opening on Place Vauban.
The Dome Mansart's masterpiece, which he made in perfect jesuit style,
is seen at is best advantage from the Place. Statues of Saint-Louis (by
Couston) and of Charlemagne (by Coysevox) stand in front ot the church,
which is richly decorated. There are paintings on all the cupolas, the
walls are adorned with pilasters and bas-reliefs; the floor is of inlaid
marble. The Emperor's vault stands in the centre of the church in a open
circular crypt surrounded by a marble balustrade. The red porphyry sarcophagus
rests on a green marble foudation. The floor of the crypt is of stellar
design. Twelve huge Pradier sculptures, symbol of the Napoléon
campaigns, stand against an open gallery. The whole is a breathtaking
Still in the church, one should stop and see the sumptuous High Altar
built by Visconti, the graves of Vauban, Marshal Foch Joseph King of Naples
(Napoleon's brother), Duroc, Bertrand, Turenne, the Saint-Jerôme
Side-Chapel, where Jérôme King of westphalia (Napoléon's
brother) is buried, and the urn containing the heart of La Tour d'Auvergne,
the first of the imperial Grenadiers.