LES INVALIDES - Paris
The Hotel des Invalides was
founded by Louis XIV to shelter 7,000 aged or crippled soldiers.
This church is part of a large establishment built to house disabled
veterans. Although it is generally classical in style, particularly
in the rectilinearity of the lower facade, the church does have
some baroque elements. There is a dynamic movement toward the center,
which culminates in the central pediment.
In addition, the dome has some surprises. Unlike St. Peter's dome,
its loose model, it arranges the windows in an unusual way--with
pairs and single windows alternating instead of a continuous row
of windows separated by buttresses or piers. Normally a window would
mark the main axis; here the main axis has a pair of columns that
separates the paired windows. The lantern is a square in plan but
it is rotated so that its corner marks the main axis.
In the chapels of Saint-Louis are the tombs of Napoleons brothers
Joseph and Jérôme, of his son and of the marshals of
France. Immediately beneath the cupola is a red porphyry sarcophagus
that covers the six coffins enclosing the body of Napoleon I, which
was returned from Saint-Helena in 1840 through the efforts of King
Louis-Philippe. Napoleons uniforms, personal arms, and death bed
are displayed in the rich Musée de l'Armée (Army Museum)
at the front of the Invalides. Fewer than 100 pensioners now live
at the hospital, which is used as a paraplegic centre.
The grassy, tree-lined Esplanade des Invalides slopes
gently for 1,410 feet to the Quai d'Orsay and the Pont Alexandre
III. The first stone for the bridge was laid in 1897 by Alexanders
son, Tsar Nicholas II. A steel span with upper works of stone, it
embodies the Gay Nineties, la Belle Epoque, solid, sumptuous, and
luxuriant, with its pomposity mocked by its own gaiety. Finished
in time for the International Exposition of 1900, it leads to two
faded souvenirs of that years fair, the Grand Palais and the Petit
Palais. Both are still used for seasonal painting salons and major
visiting art exhibits, and the Grand Palais also shelters overflow
classes from the Sorbonne and a science museum.
Avenue de Tourville, Paris 7e
How to get there
Metro line 8 : Latour-Maubourg,
RER C : Invalides
Buses : 32, 63, 93
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