Hotel des Invalides Paris Attractions Home of Disabled Soldiers

Translated as the "Home of Disabled Soldiers", the term invalides refers to military invalids or severely wounded. The building was designed to house the veterans of Louis XIVís many wars. It was his second most important building project after Versailles. It was designed to house about 4000 former soldiers.


The reign of Louis XIV from 1643 to 1715 that has often been described as the Century of Louis XIV due to its length is the longest recorded reign in modern history. It is characterized by wars and palaces. Wars have been and still are a major way to gain power and prestige. Louis XIV perceived himself as the ĎSun Kingí and wanted the sun to shine on him and France. He initiated or participated in 4 wars during his reign attempting to restore to France territories perceived as being French and to make himself supreme in Europe.

Picture of the Hotel des Invalides Paris

Between 1667 and 1697, he fought three campaigns and his last one was the war of Spanish succession, 1701 to 1714, to protect his grandson Philip V's right to be king of Spain. Sadly, this last war left France exhausted. One can only imagine the number of casualties resulting from such constant warfare. Being wounded and having no social welfare system to lean on, veterans often became impoverished, beggars, or dependent on church charity. Not the image of glory that so many were expecting.

Louis XIVís desire for glory brought him close to his soldiers and he decided in 1670 to "construct a royal building of sufficient size and space to receive and house all officers and men who are crippled or old or frail, and to guarantee sufficient funds for their subsistence and their upkeep." Of the eight projects that he saw, he chose Bruantís whose previous work was the Salpetiere almshouse and idea was to construct a grand central building around a large royal courtyard with a church facing north and punctuated by smaller side courts. He then turned to his minister of war, Marquis de Louvois, to supervise it.

Louis XIV laid the foundation stone himself on November 30, 1671. Construction was quick and it took only 5 years to build the hotel and the main courtyard. The east wing was completed in 1674, so the first veterans could be welcomed into it personally by Louis XIV. In 1676, prior to the hotelís west wing being completed, Mansart who was then commissioned to build the Eglise de St-Louis des Invalides and would later add its golden dome replaced Bruant. Over time, about 300 flags from various military campaigns would decorate its interior. The statues of the Roman gods Mars and Minerva were built by Guillaume Coustou to watch over the hospice. Construction was only finished under Mansartís disciple, Robert de Cotte, when the Eglise was consecrated in 1706.

In many ways, the hotel was a city unto itself. The occupants were housed in companies commanded by officers and had to obey military orders as well as following religious rules. Their time was not unoccupied as they made shoes and tapestries.
Picture of the Dome of the Hotel des Invalides

Not only a hotel, it is also a park, and in the Eglise du Dome, one can get as close as one can to greatness for here is the tomb of Napoleon, whose body was returned to France in 1840. There is also the museum de líArmee.

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