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Paris - Hôtel des Invalides - Dôme Church

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, although the finishing and interior painting by Charles de La Fosse dragged on until 1706. Additional buildings were added on the west side between 1747 and 1750 by Jules Robert de Cotte.

 

Inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the Église du Dôme is one of the triumphs of French Baroque and Jesuitic architecture. The dome rests on a cylindrical base, formed by forty composite columns, supported by a square base, fronted by Doric and Corhinthian orders. Two colossal marble statues stand of each side of the left entrance--on the left, Saint Louis, the church's patron saint, by Nicolas Coustou; on the right, Saint Charlemagne, by Charles Antoine Coysevox. Above the Doric entablature are four statues (the only that remain of the 38 that once decorated the entire exterior) by Coysevox representing Strength, Justice, Temperance and Prudence. The dome is completed by an open-work lantern topped by an obelisk and a cross culminating at 107 metres. The gilt was originally applied in 1691, but has been replaced on 5 separate occasions--each application requiring six kg of gold.

  

After King Louis-Philippe arranged for Napoléon Bonaparte's remains to be brought back to France in 1840, the Invalides was renovated by Viscanti. In 1861, Napoléon was entombed under the dome, surrounded by a dozen Amazon-like figures representing his victories. 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.

 

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.

 

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Taken on September 7, 2007