Wednesday, October 23, 2013

39. Napoleon's Tomb

Just around the corner from the Eiffel Tower is L'Hôtel National des Invalides (The National Residence of the Invalids), a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans ( the building's original purpose ). The buildings house the Musée de l'Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d'Histoire Contemporaine, as well as the Eglise du Dom ( the Dome Church) – the burial site for some of France's war heroes, notably Napoleon Bonaparte.

 The golden dome of this church first caught my eye when I was up on the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower and I made a note to myself to definitely check it out another day. And so much of historical Paris owes it's existence to - and refers to - Napoleon, I thought it relevant to visit his final resting place.

In 1670 Louis XIV initiated the building of this huge complex to serve as a home and hospital for aged, injured and unwell soldiers and the building retained its primary function of a retirement home and hospital for military veterans (invalides) until the early twentieth century when it became officially known as the Musee de l’Armee.
The central court of the L'Hôtel National des Invalides - behind the Dome Church
Deserted now except for a couple of lovers ....
Entrance to central court
Entrance to Royal Chapel

I wasn’t really interested in the galleries of military exhibits so confined my viewing to the more grand royal chapel and the Dome Church.
Royal Chapel

This royal chapel was built between 1677 and 1706. The interior decorations produced at that time glorify Louis XIV, the monarchy and his armies.

Inside the Dome Church
Looking down into the "crypt"
Napoleon's sarcophagus

Dome above ...

On 5 May 1821, Napoleon I passed away on the island of St. Helena, where he had been in exile since 1815. He was buried near a spring, in the shade of a few weeping willows, in the "valley of Geraniums". His remains stayed there until 1840 when King Louis-Philippe decided to have the Emperor's body transferred back to France.

High altar above the tomb

A state funeral accompanied the return of Emperor Napoleon I's ashes, which were transferred to Les Invalides on 15 December 1840.  
Nowadays, alongside Napoleon I's tomb, the Dome Church contains the graves of his son, l'Aiglon, the King of Rome, his brothers Joseph and Jérôme Bonaparte, the Generals Bertrand and Duroc, and the two famous marshals of the first half of the 20th century, Foch and Lyautey.

A very impressive place for one's soul to spend eternity - except for the chatter of tourists ...
Back to the art tomorrow ....