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From Renaissance to Modernity: Discovering Les Invalides' Architecture & Aesthetics

Dating back to the 17th century and having once served as a military hospital and retirement home for war veterans, Les Invalides is a must-visit historic complex in Paris founded by Louis XIV. Keeping aside its political significance, Les Invalides also invites millions annually to marvel at its stunning French Baroque design. Its most notable feature is the dazzling golden dome of the church of Saint-Louis-des-Invalides, which dominates the Parisian skyline.

Read on to know how this historic complex came to be and all about its architectural style and design. 

Architecture & Design of Les Invalides

Architecture & Design of Les Invalides
  • Official Name: Hôtel national des Invalides
  • Attraction Type: Museum and Monument
  • Location:  75007 Paris, France
  • Founded: Construction began in 1670 and was completed in 1678.
  • Area: The complex covers over 13 hectares (32 acres) and includes several buildings, courtyards, and gardens.
  • Architectural Style: French Baroque architecture with Neo-Classical elements
  • Main Architects: Libéral Bruant, Jules Hardouin-Mansart

Les Invalides Architecture & Design

Dome Church Les Invalides Paris

A remarkable example of French Baroque architecture, the complex was designed by architects Libéral Bruant and Jules Hardouin-Mansart.

One of the most striking features of Les Invalides is the Church of Saint-Louis-des-Invalides, which boasts a spectacular golden dome that dominates the Parisian skyline. The dome was designed by Hardouin-Mansart and was completed in 1706. Its inspiration is said to come from the dome of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and it has become an iconic symbol of French architecture.

The design of Les Invalides is based on a symmetrical plan, with several courtyards and buildings that are arranged around a central axis. The courtyards and gardens are adorned with ornate sculptures and fountains, and the buildings are decorated with intricate carvings and moldings. The interior of the complex features grand halls and staircases, with ornate details that are characteristic of the French Baroque style.

Who Designed Les Invalides?

Les Invalides was designed by a team of talented architects, each of whom made significant contributions to the project. Here are some of the key players:

Libéral Bruant

Libéral Bruant was the first architect to work on Les Invalides, and he was responsible for designing the original plans for the complex. He was a prominent French architect who worked on several notable buildings in Paris, including the Hôtel de Beauvais and the Hôtel de Soubise.

Jules Hardouin-Mansart

Jules Hardouin-Mansart was a renowned French architect who is best known for his work on the Palace of Versailles. He was brought in to work on Les Invalides after Bruant's death, and he completed the design of the complex. Hardouin-Mansart was responsible for designing the Church of Saint-Louis-des-Invalides and the spectacular golden dome that tops it.

Louis Le Vau

Louis Le Vau was a prominent French architect who worked on several notable buildings in Paris, including the Louvre Palace. He was brought in to work on the design of the Grand Courtyard of Les Invalides, which features a striking central axis and ornate decorations.

Robert de Cotte

Robert de Cotte was a French architect who worked on several notable buildings in Paris, including the Royal Chapel of Versailles. He was responsible for designing the Chapel of Sainte-Anne within Les Invalides, which features beautiful decorations and a stunning dome.

Stages of Construction

main dome of the church

Planning and Design

The planning and design of Les Invalides began in 1670 under the guidance of the chief architect of King Louis XIV, Libéral Bruant. Bruant designed the main dome of the church and the overall layout of the complex.

Les Invalides Walls

Foundation and Construction

Construction of Les Invalides began in 1671 and the foundation of the church and main dome were laid. The exterior walls were built using a mix of limestone and sandstone, giving it a distinct yellow hue.

Les Invalides

Completion and Additions

Les Invalides was completed in 1676, but it has undergone several additions since its initial construction. In the 18th century, a new chapel was added, and in the 19th century, the complex was converted into a military museum.  

Les Invalides Exteriors

Dome of Les Invalides

Dome of Les Invalides

Designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the dome stands at an impressive height of 107 meters and is inspired by the St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The gold-leafed dome is supported by an intricate wooden framework and was one of the largest domes in the world at the time of its construction. The dome is visible from many parts of Paris and has become an iconic symbol of the city.

Les Invalides Northern Facade

Facade of Les Invalides

The facade of Les Invalides is a harmonious combination of rusticated stonework and intricate detailing. It is symmetrical and stretches for over 196 meters. The rusticated stone creates a sense of strength and durability, while the intricate detailing adds a touch of elegance. The central section of the facade, which includes the entrance, is adorned with sculptural decoration that depicts the military victories of France's past.

Esplanade of Les Invalides

Esplanade of Les Invalides

The esplanade of Les Invalides is a vast courtyard that stretches out in front of the building. It was designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, who wanted to create a sense of grandeur and space. The esplanade is flanked by two large pavilions, which were used for military purposes in the past. The courtyard is surrounded by low walls and is punctuated by several fountains. 

Eglise du Dôme

Eglise du Dôme

Eglise du Dôme, or the Church of the Dome, is a part of Les Invalides that is not to be missed. It was built by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and serves as a mausoleum for some of France's most famous military leaders, including Napoleon Bonaparte. The church is located directly beneath the dome and features stunning Baroque decoration, including gilt-bronze detailing, frescoes, and a central altarpiece. 

Les Invalides Interiors

Chapelle Royale

Chapelle Royale

The highlight of the Chapelle Royale is the high altar and the impressive cupola decorated with paintings depicting the life of Saint Louis. The floor plan of the chapel is a Latin cross, with a nave and two side chapels. The interior walls and ceilings are adorned with intricate carvings and frescoes, and the chapel houses several important tombs, including that of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Dôme des Invalides

Dôme des Invalides

The Dôme des Invalides is a masterpiece of French Classicism and is the most prominent feature of the Les Invalides. Its grandeur is emphasized by the use of materials such as marble, gold leaf, and bronze. The interior of the dome is decorated with frescoes depicting Napoleon's military victories, while the exterior features intricate stone carvings and statues. You can climb to the top of the dome for a breathtaking view of Paris.

Église Saint-Louis des Invalides

Église Saint-Louis des Invalides

The church's interior is decorated with elaborate carvings, paintings, and frescoes, and the highlight is the high altar, which features a stunning sculpture of Saint Louis. The church also houses several important tombs, including those of Marshal Turenne and Vauban, both of whom played important roles in the history of Les Invalides.

Salle des États

Salle des États

The Salle des États is a grand hall located within Les Invalides that was once used for state ceremonies and banquets. The hall features a stunning coffered ceiling and elaborate carvings and is adorned with paintings and tapestries. Today, the hall is used for exhibitions and events and is a popular venue for weddings and other special occasions.

Structure of Les Invalides

Les Invalides has a complex structure with its two main buildings, the Dôme des Invalides and the Hôtel des Invalides, made from different materials. The Dôme is made of stone and features a classical dome design, while the Hôtel is constructed with red brick and stone accents. The complex also includes a series of courtyards, arches, and vaulted ceilings, all contributing to its unique and grand architecture. Its various parts were constructed at different times, with the Dôme being built first, followed by the Hôtel, which was expanded upon over time. The result is a magnificent and harmonious blend of architectural styles.

Frequently Asked Questions about Les Invalides Architecture

Q. What is the main architectural style of Les Invalides?

A. Les Invalides is primarily designed in the Baroque style with some elements of Classical, Neo-Classical, and Renaissance architecture.

Q. Who is the architect behind Les Invalides?

A. The architect of Les Invalides is Jules Hardouin-Mansart, who was commissioned by King Louis XIV in 1670.

Q. Why is Les Invalides architecture renowned?

A. Les Invalides is renowned for its grandeur and architectural beauty, especially the golden dome, which is a symbol of Paris.

Q. What inspired the design of Les Invalides?

A. Les Invalides was inspired by the Hospital of the Innocents in Paris and the Hôtel des Invalides in Turin, Italy.

Q. When was Les Invalides constructed?

A. Les Invalides was constructed in the 17th century, between 1671 and 1676.

Q. How old is Les Invalides?

 A. Les Invalides is over 300 years old, having been completed in 1676.

Q. What are the notable features of Les Invalides?

A. Notable features inside Les Invalides include the stunning chapel, the tombs of Napoleon Bonaparte and other French military leaders, and the Army Museum.

Q. What are the key exterior elements of Les Invalides?

 A. The key exterior elements of Les Invalides include the monumental entrance, the golden dome, the ornate facades, and the long rows of arched windows.

Q. What are the dimensions of Les Invalides?

A. Les Invalides covers a vast area of 13 hectares, and the main building is approximately 240 meters long and 63 meters wide.

Q. What materials were used in the construction of Les Invalides?

A. The primary materials used in the construction of Les Invalides were limestone, brick, and marble.

Q. Where can I purchase Les Invalides admission tickets?

A. You can purchase admission tickets to Les Invalides either on-site or online. Purchasing your tickets online comes with added benefits such as priority access, guided tours, betters deals, discounts and cashback offers. It allows you to, thus, save on time and money.