a place in the world

Date archives March 2012

France / Writing

Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb at Les Invalides

Les Invalides used to be a hospital (Hôpital des Invalides) and a home for injured soldiers. It is now a building complex of museums, churches, and monuments mostly dedicated to France’s war history.

The most notable thing about the place is the Dome des Invalides (Église du Dôme), one of the two churches in the complex and the resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Little Corporal who shaped France’s history as the great conqueror who invaded most of Europe, in a short span of five years.


The ‘hole’ right beneath the dome of the chapel, perhaps rebuilt this way so visitors can lean over the railing and bow down to France’s great emperor
Invalides hole

Napoleon’s body was exhumed from the grave in 1840 and transported to the Chapel, right under the dome. It was still perfectly preserved after 19 years. Underneneath this sarcophagus (stone coffin), there are six more concentric coffins before you can actually get to Napoleon’s remains (oak, ebony, lead [2], mahogany, tinplate).
Napoleon's sarcophagus

Adolf Hitler looked up to Napoleon, and even shed a tear or two when he visited his resting place, on his first and only trip to France. Alas, history repeated itself, and Hitler fell the same way Napoleon did, by attempting to invade Russia.

Napoloen declared himself as the emperor of Rome, and here is a statue depicting him as one. Other photo: kids visiting the chapel
Holy Roman Emperor Napoleon

Charles de La Fosse’s dome
Charles de la Fosse's dome
Invalides Dome

This private royal chapel was inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica and I can very well see the similarities
Invalides private royal chapel

Other war heroes as well as Napoleon’s two brothers and son are also buried in this chapel.

The chapel is very solemn, even if there aren’t any pews indicating that mass is being celebrated here. People are discouraged to make any unnecessary noise. A & I were exhausted because we fought the cold the entire day. We spent most of the time sitting and resting. I think I even fell asleep.

Due to lack of time (and it was closing time besides), we failed to visit the actual Musee de l’Armee. This is a vast museum for those who are interested not only in France’s history, but also in the military history of the world– it contains exhibits from early war history to the more recent World Wars 1 and 2.

For the evening, we head to Champs-Élysées for dinner and a bit of shopping.

Les Invalides
129 rue de Grenelle (near Musee Rodin)
Metro: La Tour Maubourg, Varenne, Invalides


The Thinker at Musée Rodin

The Rodin Museum / Musée Rodin showcases the works of Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917), including The Thinker (Le Penseur), probably the most known sculpture in the world. There are more than a dozen copies of The Thinker all over the world– Singapore, Philadelphia, Kyoto, Moscow, Copenhagen– but the original bronze cast can be found here.

Musee Rodin Grounds
Musee Rodin grounds
Musee Rodin grounds

It drizzled for a while when we were there.
some drizzle at Musee Rodin

The museum was actually a former hotel called the Hôtel Biron. Rodin rented out rooms in the hotel and used it as his studio. Sometime later, the French Government acquired the property and Rodin donated some of his works in the condition that the grounds be turned into a museum. And so it was done, and Musée Rodin opened in 1919.
Auguste Rodin's The Thinker
Auguste Rodin's The Thinker

Hôtel Biron is a beautiful building mostly containing Rodin’s plaster and marble casts, photographs, and paintings, as well as his collection of artwork, plus even some sculptures by his student / mistress, Camille Claudel. (Note: from January – 3 April 2012, the building will be closed for renovation to meet modern safety standards.)
Hotel Biron

The gardens are equally beautiful, well-kept hedges and rose bushes, a terrace, a fountain and a café. The bronze sculptures can be found here; aside from the Thinker, other well know works include: The Burghers of Calais, and the Gates of Hell.

Hôtel Biron, The Fountain
Musee Rodin

Les Trois Ombres
Les Trois Ombres

St. John the Baptist Preaching, The Kiss
Inside Musee Rodin / Hotel Biron
Musee Rodin

 Here is a clip from one of my favorite movies last year, Midnight in Paris. I was thrilled that they shot in Musee Rodin, obviously as it is a place I have been to. Carla Bruni (Mrs. Nicolas Sarkozy) plays the museum tour guide. Midnight in Paris also shot in Giverny, and the gardens looked better in the film than in pictures! 🙂 About this movie– I don’t usually like the general theme of magic-realism, but I found myself charmed by this gem of a film; I especially get a kick out of Adrien Brody playing Salvador Dali.

Musée Rodin
79, rue de Varenne – 75007 Paris
Phone : +33(0)144186110
Metro : Varenne (line 13) or Invalides (line 13, line 8)
Open daily except Mondays