Paris: Hôtel des Invalides - Dôme Church - Tombeau de Napoléon
On May 5th 1821, Napoléon I passed away on the island of St Helena, where he had been in exile ever since 1815. He was buried close to a spring, in the shadows of a few weeping willows, in the "Geranium valley". His remains rested there until October 15th 1840 when King Louis-Philippe decided to transfer the body of the Emperor. French sails men, under the Prince de Joinville command, brought back the coffin to France, aboard the "Belle Poule" ship.
National funerals followed the return of the Emperor Napoléon I remains, transferred to the Invalides on December 15th 1840, while the tomb was being constructed. It was commissioned in 1842, by Louis-Philippe, to the architect Visconti (1791-1853), who made vast transformations by excavating the inside of the Dome church, to host the tomb. The body of the Emperor Napoléon I was laid there on April 2nd 1861.
The sarcophagus, placed on a green Vosges granite pedestal, is crafted in red porphyry from Finland. Inside it, Napoléon rests in his uniform of colonel, wearng the Grand Cordon of the Legion of Honour, with his hat placed on his legs. He is enclosed in six coffins placed inside the other: one of tin-plate, one of mahogany, two of lead, one of ebony, and the other of oak. On the ground, a multi-colored mosaic recalls the names of the Emperor's principal victories--each of which are also commemorated by the encircling twelve colossal winged statues. In the round gallery, a series of low-relief represent the main actions of the reign and a statue of the Emperor, bearing the imperial emblems, looms at the back of the crypt.
The grave of the "King of Rome," his son by second wife Marie-Louise, lies at his feet. Surrounding Napoléon's Tomb are those of his brother, Joseph Bonaparte; Vauban, who built many of France's fortifications; Marshal Ferdinand Foch, a World War I Allied commander; Lyautey, field marshal of France; and the vicomte de Turenne, the republic's first grenadier.
The Hôtel des Invalides, or Les Invalides, was founded by royal decree in 1670 by Louis XIV to offer care and accomodation to wounded soldiers. Designed by architect Libéral Bruant in what was then fields outside of Paris, by the time the enlarged project was completed in 1676, the complex had fifteen courtyards, the largest being the cour d'honneur for military parades. In 1676, Jules Hardouin Mansart completed Bruant's designs for the Eglise Saint-Louis des Invalides, a chapel for the veterans.
Shortly after the veterans' chapel was completed, Louis XIV had Mansart construct a separate private royal chapel, the Église du Dôme, with a new new facade. Started in 1677, the main structure was completed by 1690, crowned with a gilded dome, although the finishing and interior painting by Charles de La Fosse dragged on until 1706. Inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, it is one of the triumphs of French Baroque and Jesuitic architecture. Additional buildings were added on the west side between 1747 and 1750 by Jules Robert de Cotte.
Today, on either side of the dome, Les Invalides still houses the Institution Nationale des Invalides, a national institution for disabled war veterans, as well as the Musée de l'Armée, the military museum of of the Army of France, which was established in 1905.