In 1671, Louis XIV decided to create a residence and hospital for the war veterans of France. The result is the Hôtel National des Invalides (Hotel for the Disabled). The first guests moved into the building in 1674. Work was undertaken in 1677 to build the church addition to the facility that was subsequently divided into a Soldiers' church and the Dome church. It was completed in 1706.
In the seventeenth century, the Hôtel housed up to four thousand guests. Under the supervision of their officers, they were divided into companies and operated workshops (cobbling, tapestry, illumination). Today, the national institution of des Invalides, a hospital, still pursues its initial vocation in part of the facility.
Saint-Louis church, or the Soldiers' church, opens into the main courtyard and is a beautiful example of classic architecture. A row of flags, taken from the enemy during the nineteenth- and twentieth-century campaigns, hang from the cornices of the nave. The organ case, dated 1679, is particularly remarkable. Unfortunately, this part of the building was closed for renovations, so well have to return another time to get pictures for you.
Napoleon's tomb can be seen beneath the golden dome of the church. The dome's openwork skylight rises 351 feet above the ground. In 1989, the dome and its decorative elements were regilded. Twelve kilograms (or approximately 32 troy pounds) of gold were necessary for this operation.
This is the front of Invalides with its golden dome that can be seen for miles.
This is the back of Invalides, but it's the main entrance to the tomb area. Napoleon's tomb is directly under the dome.
In 1840, the French government decided that the remains of Emperor Napoleon would be transferred, and his national funeral took place on December 15th of that year. The sculptor Visconti was commissioned to build the tomb. It was completed in 1861, and the emperor's remains were placed in it. The tomb, made of red porphyry, is on a base of green granite and is surrounded by inscriptions recalling the major victories of the empire. Nearby, stands a statute of the emperor.
If the lid were opened, you would find an oak coffin that holds another ebony coffin, housing two lead ones, then mahogany, then tinplate until you would finally find Napoleon himself. When his body was exhumed from the original grave and moved to Paris, it was perfectly preserved, even after 19 years in the ground.
If you would like to learn more about Napoleon, You can find a great deal of information at an internet site dedicated to him. It can be found at http://www.napoleonbonaparte.nl/. A wealth of information about Hôtel National des Invalides can be found at http://www.invalides.org/. Here you will also learn about the wonderful museums at des Invalides. It has a beautiful picture of the organ in the Saint-Louis church.