With its imposing size and its intimidating canons, the Hôtel National des Invalides (home to the Musée de l’Armée and the tomb of Napoléon) symbolizes the power of a district which in a small area boasts the Palais Bourbon, the Champ-de-Mars, the Musée d’Orsay, Musée Rodin, the Ecole Militaire and the Pont Alexandre III.
The Palais Bourbon, which has housed the Assemblée Nationale (the lower house of the French parliament) in its different forms since 1798, is of aristocratic origin! It was built in 1726 for Louise-Françoise, daughter of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan, the widow of the Duc de Bourbon.
The dome by J. Hardouin Mansart, built between 1679 and 1706 magnificently crowns the building. It is the finest dome ever built in France and its 107-metre-high lantern was regilded in 1989 for the bicentenary of the French Revolution. Twelve kilos were needed for this operation. From the outside you may admire the facade with its two orders (Doric and Corinthian) of architecture. Statues of Charlemagne and St Louis by Coysevox and N Coustou decorate the niches of the lower levels.
The Musée des plans-reliefs houses and exhibits a unique world collection: historical models to a scale of 1/600th of French fortified places and towns of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Those models were mostly used for military strategy and also contributed to the prestige of heads of state. Today they are an essential documentary resource about the places they represent and constitute a precious educational aid. These models give visitors an aerial view of the cities, their buildings, their fortifications and their landscapes.
Three galleries and six rooms relating the Resistance action for the liberation of France (manuscripts written by Général de Gaulle), the tragic atmosphere of the concentration camps. Authentic combatants' memories, uniforms, weapons, clandestine press, transmitters, relics from the camps.
In 1671, Louis XIV decided to build 'a royal hostel that would be large and spacious enough to house all officers, crippled, old and retired alike'. The ‘pensioners‘ began arriving in 1674. The Église Saint-Louis – or ‘Soldiers Church’ – and the Église du Dôme (transformed into a military pantheon) were built afterwards. This magnificent ensemble, with its wonderful green lawn, today houses canons with rather disturbing names such as ‘The Scourge’, the Ministry of Defence and the Musée de l’Ordre de la Libération, Musée des Plans et Reliefs and Musée de l’Armée. The Musée de l’Armée houses the tomb of Napoleon, the department of arms and ancient armoury, and that of the two world wars.
Housed in the Hôtel Biron, an 18th century former mansion house, the Rodin museum boasts French gardens laid out with plants, shrubs and trees, and decorated with sculptures by the artist. Auguste Rodin took up residence here in 1908, surrounded by a park teeming with brambles and rabbits. The museum opened in 1919, two years after his death. Sculptures in marble, bronze, and terracotta alternate with drawings by the master, works by Camille Claudel (his muse), paintings by his friends Carrières, Monet, Van Gogh and others. In the garden, roses and statues have replaced the rabbits, but the charm remains unique.