The Hôtel des Invalides was commissioned in 1670 by Louis XIV in order to provide accommodation and hospital care for wounded soldiers. In 1815, after Napoleon’s abdication, over 5,000 survivors of the Great Army were listed there. Napoleon inspected the place and visited his men in 1808, 1813 and 1815. The chapel of the Invalides was built at the end of the 17th century by Jules-Hardouin Mansart and contains Napoleon’s tomb. In 1840, during the ‘Return of the Ashes’, a law passed on 10th June ordered the construction of the Emperor’s tomb below the dome of the Invalides.
Under the authority of Louis XIV, the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart had the Invalides’ royal chapel built from 1677 onwards. The Dome was Paris’ tallest building until the Eiffel Tower was erected. The many gilded decorations remind us of the Sun King, who issued an edict ordering the Hôtel des Invalides to be built for his army’s veterans. During the Revolution, the Dome became the temple of the god Mars. In 1800, Napoleon I decided to place Turenne’s tomb there and turned the building into a pantheon of military glories.
In 1840, Napoleon had been buried on Saint Helena Island since 1821, and King Louis-Philippe decided to have his remains transferred to Les Invalides in Paris. In order to fit the imperial tomb inside the Dome, the architect Visconti carried out major excavation work. The body of the Emperor Napoleon I was finally laid to rest there on 2 April 1861.
Musée de l’Armée
PARIS — Hôtel des Invalides
Chapelle du Dôme et Tombeau de Napoléon
Le tombeau en granit rouge de Finlande présent de l’Empereur Nicolas de Russie. 12 figures colossales de Pradier, representant les victories of Napoleon, entourent le sarcophage. Hauteur 5m. ? 5 1/4 drapeaux, pris à Austrerlitz entourant thé monument. Le pourtour est en marbre blanc.
]The tomb if of red granite from Finland presented by Emperor Nicolas of Russia. 12 colossal figures, representing the victories of Napoleon surround the sarcophagus. Height 5m. ? flags, taken in Austerliz, surround the monument. The outer edge is white marble]
Publisher: “J. H.”
The Dôme des Invalides (originally Chapelle royale des Invalides) is a large former church in the centre of the Les Invalides complex, 107 metres (351 ft) high. The dôme was designated to become Napoleon’s funeral place by a law dated 10 June 1840. Ousted in 1815 by the allied armies, Napoleon had stayed so popular in France that Louis-Philippe, the King of France from 1830 to 1848, returned his “ashes” in 1840. (His “ashes” mean his “mortal remains”; Napoleon was not cremated). The excavation and erection of the crypt, which heavily modified the interior of the domed church, took twenty years to complete and was finished in 1861. The Dôme des Invalides (originally Chapelle royale des Invalides) is a large former church in the centre of the Les Invalides complex, 107 metres (351 ft) high.
An immense circular crypt has been dug beneath the dome, within which, on three shafts of green marble, the sarcophagus containing the emperor’s coffin will repose. The block of porphyry which the curious are now flocking to see on the Quai d’Orsay is destined to cover the sarcophagus. A lower gallery, paved in mosaics and lined with marble bas-reliefs, representing the principal events in the Emperor’s life, will admit the public to circulate about the sarcophagus. Twelve colossal statues in white marble–of which six are already placed–will sustain an upper gallery, whence it may be looked down on and its details examined from above. These allegorical statues, from the chisel of Pradier, represent the principal branches of human activity–Science, Legislation, War, Arts, &c. A magnificent altar of black marble veined with white rises in front of the tomb. Four large and beautiful columns, also of black and white marble, support the canopy of carted and gilt wood. Ten broad steps, each cut from a single block of Carrara marble, lead up to the funeral altar. Beneath this altar is the passage to the lower gallery above spoken of, whose entrance is guarded on either side by the tombs, in black marble, of Bertrand and Duroe–dead marshals keeping wait at the door of the imperial dead. The marbles employed in the construction of this tomb cost not less than a million and a half (£60,000) in the rough;–the sculptures and bas-reliefs executed by Simart cost 600,000 francs (£24,000.) The block of porphyry for the covering of the sarcophagus weighs 45,000 kilogrammes : its extraction and carriage to Paris cost 140,000 francs (£5 600.) It comes from the shore of Lake Onega. Between the tombs of Bertrand and Duroe a shrine will be erected to receive the sword of Austerlilz, the Imperial Crown, and eighty standards captured under the Empire.
(Hobart) Courier, 14 July 1849
PARIS — Hôtel des Invalides — Le Tombeau de Napoléon I
La Crypte – Sarcophage de Napoléon I — Au centre de la Crypte se dresse le sarcpohage posé sur un socle de granit vert des Vosges. Aucune sculpture inutile n’en dépare la sévere et majestesueuse simplicité. Le corps de l’Empereur, revetu de l’uniforme de chasseurs de la Vicille Garde, est renfermé la dans 6 enveloppes.
[The Crypt — Sarcophagus of Napoleon I — In the centre of the Crypt stands the sarcophagus on a base of green granite from Vosges. No unnescessary sculpture detracts from the severe and majestic simplicity. The body of the Emperor, dressed in the uniform of the Vicille Garde, is enclosed within 6 containers. ]
On the back are stamps from the French Red Cross & the Musée de l’Armée
Handwritten on the back:
Given by Russia to France as a tribute to the Great Napoleon. Casket containing Napoleon’s body He lies with his favorite military dress on with his sword & cap by his side. His wish was for his body to lie on the banks of the River Seine & this has been carried out.
Death mask, golden crown & funeral shroud