Les Invalides, or Hôtel des Invalides, was the first military hospital and home for French war veterans and disabled soldiers, founded by Louis XIV. The decree for building this vast complex was signed in 1670 and construction was finished five years later. Today the Classical façade is one of the most impressive sights in Paris, with its four stories, cannon in the forecourt, garden and tree-line esplanade stretching to the Seine.
The complex contains museums and monuments all relating to military history in France. The building houses the Musée de l’Ordre de la Libération, Musée de l’Armée, as well as the Dôme des Invalides, a large church which is the burial site for some of France’s war heroes, most notably, Napoleon Bonaparte.
Musée de l’Ordre de la Libération This museum is devoted to the wartime Free French and their leader, General Charles de Gaulle. The Oder of Liberation, created in 1940, is France’s highest honor and bestowed on those who made an outstanding contribution to the final victory of World War II. French civilians and members of the armed forces plus some famous overseas leaders – including King George VI Winston Churchill, and General Dwight D Eisenhower – received the honor.
Musée de l’Armée Musée de l’Armée, the military museum of the Army of France. This is one of the most comprehensive museums of military history in the world with exhibits ranging from the Stone Age to the final days of World War II. The third-largest collection of armory in the world is housed here. It is worth a visit for the collection on display as much as for the 17th-century mural by Joseph Parrocel adorning the walls.
Dôme des Invalides Jules Hardouin-Mansart was asked in 1676 by the Sun King, Louis XIV, to build the Dôme Church to complement the existing buildings of the Invalides military refuge. It was to be for the exclusive use of the Sun King as the location of the royal tombs. After Louis XIV's death, plans to bury the royal family in the church were abandoned. The main attraction is the tomb of Napoleon. His body was returned to France after his death on the island of St Helena and installed in this magnificent crypt, encased in six coffins in a vast red porphyry sarcophagus.