National Residence of the Invalids (Hotel national des Invalides)

The National Residence of the Invalids (Les Invalides) is a grand architectural ensemble comprising the Dôme des Invalides with Napoleon’s tomb, the Saint-Louis Church and the retirement home for disabled veterans. It stretches from the Place Vauban to the Esplanade des Invalides, a vast space extending towards the bank of the River Seine and the Pont Alexandre III bridge.

The 196-meter long four-storey façade facing the Esplanade is flanked by two projections with figured pediments. In the center there is a portal in the form of a triumphal arch with a bas-relief representing Louis XIV on horseback between the allegorical figures of Justice and Prudence. All the four sides of the main courtyard are formed by two-tier arched galleries. The portico of the Saint-Louis-des-Invalides Cathedral (also known as the “Soldiers Church”) is opposite the main entrance to the court. The entire complex of buildings has in total 15 courtyards (in the beginning of the 18th century, there were 12 courtyards). The Dôme des Invalides whose façade with a double order of columns and a pediment is facing the Place Vauban dominates the architectural ensemble. Its large drum with two rows of windows, twin columns and volutes is topped with a dome decorated with gilt garlands and flowers. The spire of the cathedral rises to a height of 107 meters.

The building of the retirement home and hospital for wounded and disabled soldiers was built by order of Louis XIV by architect Libéral Bruant in the outskirts of Paris in 1671-1676. The churches at the Les Invalides are the creations of Jules Hardouin-Mansart who worked here from 1679 to 1708. The esplanade was built in 1704-1720. Once established, the residence of invalids simultaneously accommodated more than five thousand veterans.

Peter I visited the Les Invalides on the Trinity Day, May 5/16, 1717. He was accompanied by Marshal Claude Louis Hector Villars. According to Duke Saint-Simon, Peter “wanted to see everything and to learn about everything everywhere. In the dining hall, he tried soldier’s soup and drank some wine to the soldiers’ health, tapping them on their shoulders and calling them ‘camarades’.   He liked the church, the pharmacy and the hospital a lot and seemed to be generally delighted with their setup.”

Perhaps, Peter’s impressions from the Residence of the Invalids in Paris contributed to accelerating the construction of the Main Naval and Land Forces Hospital — a huge stone building with the 300-meter long façade and a church in the middle in the Vyborg Side area in St. Petersburg.

The Dôme des Invalides has housed the ashes of Napoleon I since 1840 and contains tombs of prominent military leaders of France.

The former retirement home of veterans currently houses the Museum of the Army which has one of the world’s largest collections of weapons. The Museum’s permanent exhibition has a showcase dedicated to Peter I and Charles XII.


National Residence of the Invalids (Hotel national des Invalides)


129, rue de Grenelle, 75007, Paris, France