The Hotel des Invalides gathers a bunch of museums (including the Musée de l’Armée) and monuments, among which not one but two churches: the Dôme des Invalides and the Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides.
This chapel has been built between 1677 and 1706 for the exclusive use of the royal family and the indoor decors express the glory of Louis XIV and the monarchy. Under Napoleon Bonaparte, the Dôme des Invalides becomes a military pantheon. The body of Maréchal Turenne and Vauban’s heart are moved there.
In 1840, the Dôme des Invalides houses the body of Napoleon I, 19 years after his death on Saint-Helena. He’s been resting there in an impressive tomb of red quartzite put on a green granite base from Vosges.
During your visit, don’t miss: the majestic Dôme, the black marble sarcophagus representing Vauban, half-lying, and of course Napoleon I’s tomb, surrounded by his son’s, brother’s and great generals’ and Marshall’s sepulchers.
On the command of Louis XIV and the War Minister de Louvois, the construction of the Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides starts in 1676 to welcome soldiers in an annex of the Dôme. Blueprints are entrusted to architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart who draws a building allowing the King and his soldiers to attend the same mass, while coming in by different doors, as protocol requires. The so-call soldiers were told to attend the mass daily in this very sober and clean building dedicated to Saint-Louis.
Note that the Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides choir is the only choir in France to be adorned with French flags; and under the vault, you can see flags and banners from the enemies. Moreover, it’s in this church that Berlioz’s Requiem has been performed for the first time.
For the anecdote, architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart planned to extend the Invalides work by adorning the church with a colonnade inspired by the one in the St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy, but the project never made it.
Yet, in 1870, a glass roof is created in order to separate the two churches, leading to a rather surprising look. Note that it’s not possible to go from the Veteran’s Chapel (free) to the Dome (charged) from the inside of the buildings.
The Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides remains today the cathedral of the French armies. Before leaving the place, don’t hesitate to visit the Jardin de l’Intendant.
Musée de l'Armée
129 rue de Grenelle
75007 Paris 7