I’m a true fan of Paris and the army, so I was pretty shocked to know about the Army Museum in Paris. It’s a place that tours don’t give that much of an importance, but (I believe) it’s one of the most important places in Paris.
Louis XIV initiated the project by an order dated 24 November 1670, as a home and hospital for aged and unwell soldiers: the name is a shortened form of hôpital des invalides. The selected site was in the then suburban plain of Grenelle (plaine de Grenelle). By the time the enlarged project was completed in 1676, the river front measured 196 meters and the complex had fifteen courtyards, the largest being the cour d’honneur (court of honour) for military parades. It was then felt that the veterans required a chapel and it was finished in 1679. This chapel was known as Église Saint-Louis des Invalides, and daily attendance of the veterans in the church services was required.
Shortly after the veterans’ chapel was completed, Louis XIV commissioned Mansart to construct a separate private royal chapel referred to as the Église du Dôme from its most striking feature. The domed chapel was finished in 1708.
Because of its location and significance, the Invalides served as the scene for several key events in French history. On 14 July 1789 it was stormed by Parisian rioters who seized the cannons and muskets stored in its cellars to use against the Bastille later the same day. Napoleon was entombed under the dome of the Invalides with great ceremony in 1840. In December 1894 the degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus was held before the main building, while his subsequent rehabilitation ceremony took place in a courtyard of the complex in 1906.
“Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it; it flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.”
The building retained its primary function of a retirement home and hospital for military veterans (invalides) until the early twentieth century. In 1872 the musée d’artillerie (Artillery Museum) was located within the building to be joined by the musée historique des armées (Historical Museum of the Armies) in 1896. The two institutions were merged to form the present musée de l’armée in 1905. At the same time the veterans in residence were dispersed to smaller centres outside Paris. The reason was that the adoption of a mainly conscript army, after 1872, meant a substantial reduction in the numbers of veterans having the twenty or more years of military service formerly required to enter the Hôpital des Invalides. The building accordingly became too large for its original purpose. The modern complex does however still include the facilities detailed below for about a hundred elderly or incapacitated former soldiers.
The importance of Napoleon to the Army Museum
I saw a show called La Nuit aux Invalides. It’s incredibly beautiful and informative. I’ts a show at night that uses holograms on the walls of the main courtyard to tell the story of France. There, I realized the love the french people have for Napoleon.
I didn’t know he remodeled the Musée de l’Armée after it was destroyed during wars and attacks. Because of that, there’s a huge statue of him in the main courtyard.
And, also, the museum made an exposition to tell people the story of Napoleon. We really wanted to see it, but the museum is just huge and the maps don’t make it easy… Actually, the map made even more lost… But, by this video bellow, you can see how amazing the exposition was.
Besides all that, the museum also has definitive expositions about weapons, the first and second World Wars, etc. I highly recommend you there and please, don’t take the audio guide, it’s useless and you have to leave your id there, if you don’t return the guide before 15 min before the museum closes, you can’t get your id back because the workers leave and there’s nothing you can do, but wait until the other day…
Also, go there right when it opens, so that you can enjoy the whole day at the expositions. Actually, I recommend you that you go first on a visit outside, to take pictures (because the gardens are the most beautiful thing ever and full of rabbits, don’t know why…) and, then, on other day, take a paid visit inside to see everything and make the most of it.
I hope to have helped you. If you have any questions, I’ll be pleased to answer them in the comments bellow.