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Napoleon's Tomb, Invalides, and Military Museum: Worth Visiting?

Napoleon's Tomb, Invalides, and Military Museum: Worth Visiting?

Old Jun 28th, 2006, 09:26 PM
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I am not a military buff but enjoy history in general and like the museum very much. I loved the ancient medieval armour and the later (14-16th century) guns and weaponry.

Napoleon's tomb was less interesting to me than the museum but I was with a guide who told all kinds of interesting history and facts about the building and the tomb and how Napoleon ended up there.
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Old Jun 28th, 2006, 09:27 PM
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You know, in all the time I've spent in Paris, including studying there, I've never been to Les Invalides-it just never interested me to go there-it was the "officialness" of the bldg. the fact that it's a military museum, or something, that somehow never piqued my interest.

I have to say that for a first time trip to Paris a trip to Invalides and the M.M. would be quite low on my list of priorities-many other places-like Versailles, would be of much higher priority.
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Old Jun 28th, 2006, 09:32 PM
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Here are some nice photos of the Invalides inside & out.
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Old Jun 28th, 2006, 09:52 PM
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Lol! These things are so subjective - Nessundorma didn't like the Pantheon where as I really liked it and thought it extremely interesting. I liked Napoleons tomb but overall found the war museum somewhat more difficult - if my french was better, I may have enjoyed it more (though I found some of it very informative).

Its hard to go wrong in Paris - if you are at Invalides and you aren't enjoying it, feel free to cut and run.


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Old Jun 28th, 2006, 10:08 PM
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Having seen both Les Invalides and Rodin fairly recently I would recommend the Rodin museum over Les Invalides if you had to choose. Whilst Les Invalides was interesting there seemed to be room after room of guns etc etc. Started to wear a bit thin after a while. Having seen all the fabulous sculptures inside the Rodin museum you can then feel free to wander the gorgeous gardens outside for a complete change. Well not complete of course because there are sculptures outside as well!! We had nine full days and managed to see both quite easily. Leave it to the moment.. if you get the urge as you walk passed go in.. if not.. don't!! So many museums to choose from, see the ones that really pique your interest first.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 12:25 AM
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Note that the Invalides is not all about "Napoleon's grave".It has never been built to accommodate his grave.The dome church was simply remodelled in the 1860's to that purpose.

The complex was actually built in the 1680's, well before Napoleon, by king Louis XIV primarily as a military hospital complex with a church (the "soldiers' church" just behind the dome) to house wounded war veterans. It is still an army facility providing services to veterans.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 05:00 AM
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I found the tomb of Marchal Foch very moving. There's a photo of it on that pbase gallery that Scarlett posted.

Waldo, on the French-centric WWII exhibit, I recollect reading a similar observation here a few years ago. There was a frosty debate about it, if I remember properly.

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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 05:30 AM
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I thought the room with Napoleon's tomb alone was impressive even if he was (in some people's minds) a "criminal."

Oh, and please don't forget: "Time passes; art alone endures."
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 05:33 AM
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Napoleon's tomb isn't very interesting, but then again, it only takes a few minutes to see. Then again, it's not free.

The miliary museum is worth your time only if you're interested in military things. It's also intriguing if you'd like to learn how France won WWII without any outside help.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 06:01 AM
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Yes, Murphy, that's a good observation and good advice.

Dukey, I always find phrases like that so boneheaded. (I'm not blaming you for it.) There are artworks all over Europe and elsewhere that were at one time all the "must-see" rage, listed in every guidebook (try reading some from 100 years ago -- they're fun) and written about ad nauseum by people who went into a swoon over them. Now people stampede past them to get to other paintings and sculptures they've been told are "must-sees" and the guidebooks deride them as minor works from minor movements.

I have spent most of my life working in the arts, and I have yet to meet the person who in interested in all of it. Millions of people who pant after paintings don't go to the theater, people who go to the theater never read any poetry beyond what they encountered in school. There is jazz ballet, Chinese tomb carvings, Latin American music, etc, that the same people who want to lecture you about architecture never take any interest in at all.

As for Napoleon, more than "some" people think him a criminal, although that didn't affect my perception of the space where they ultimately shoehorned in his remains. I tend to think the view of the exterior of the building is the most worthwhile -- and its hard to miss if you are touring Paris for 8 days.

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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 06:02 AM
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"It's also intriguing if you'd like to learn how France won WWII without any outside help".


I very much doubt any film, even in France, would suggest that... Did the viewers of that film get everything?

By the way, apart from the interior resistance, French troops were involved in war theatres such as Norway, north Africa, Indochina, the landing in Provence. Are you among those who think that anything related to WWII revolves around US involvement in the conflict, as decisive it may have been, while the United States went to war only in 1942? Let's be cautious about our respective ethnocentrisms...

This said, the Invalides is one the highlights of 17th century architecture in Paris. I agree Napoleon's tomb is not very interesting.

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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 06:07 AM
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PS: My definition of art isn't limited to painting, architecture, scultpure, music, poetry, dance, etc. It includes the art of living, which surely involves coming to understand why the majority of people on the planet, whether uneducated and educated, don't take a lot of interest in painting, architecture, sculpture, music, poetry, dance, etc. -- and there is nothing wrong with that.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 06:07 AM
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If you didn't know the story, and visited Wellington's tomb at St Paul's and Napoleon's in Les Invalides, you might have trouble identifying the victor.

Given his role in world history, I think a visit to Napoleon's tomb is pretty much obligatory. Alexander, Caesar, Genghis Khan and Hitler, great murderers all, cannot be visited. But you can visit Napoleon and ponder the question of why the glory goes to the worst of us.

There's a famous photo of Hitler paying his respects, which might remind some of the visit paid by Caesar to the mummified body of Alexander. I guess it's a very small mutual admiration society.

I consider the building and tomb a must see. I think the museum is superb, too.
Old Jun 29th, 2006, 06:28 AM
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As to the appreciation of Napoleon's role in history, it varies a lot according to the public : he is a villain in the "Anglo-saxon world", while the French have a more nuanced vision of his legacy, especially at the domestic level : he put an end to the revolution, gave new institutions to France...

However, readers might like to know that Napoleon is no longer politically correct in France (the celebration of Austerlitz' anniversary last year was very low-key), as he re-established slavery in the French colonies, which had been abolished by the revolution. So much for national glories...
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 06:36 AM
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Well, I wouldn't call the French view more "nuanced." It's a cult!

As for pondering Napoleon's role in history, reading history books is more genuinely informative. A pilgrimage to his remains is hardly "obligatory"!

I think architecture fans will want to see the architeture. Fans of other things in life can "cut and run" without guilt.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 07:30 AM
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I don't think you can appreciate the regard in which he is (or was) held by the French until you visit the tomb.

However, reaching that understanding may not be all that important to many people. Then -- especially if they have no interest in 17th century French architecture or in the most terrible events of their time -- they should skip the whole scene.
Old Jun 29th, 2006, 10:16 AM
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I found it interesting to hear a French government official (forget which one) suggest that it was insensitive of Britain to have the Eurostar line terminate at the station named "Waterloo." (He is apparently relieved to hear that it is being moved to St. Pancras, even if this move is for other reasons.)

I don't know if this reflects a national pride in Napoleon per se, or simply an acknowledgement that many French soldiers died at Waterloo.
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 11:34 AM
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Many years ago during my first trip to Paris, I was alone for one day. The Invalides was one of the many sights I saw solo, not my favorite way to see things, but it does give you a different perspective when you don't have someone else to talk to.

I am not a military buff either, but thanks to a wonderful little guard who took pity on this lone traveler, it was much more enjoyable that I had hoped. I was just sort of meandering thru the museum, when the guard got up from his little chair and darted over and in rapid French (which I didn't understand) and hand gestures (which I did understand), he led me to things ie: Napoleon's death mask, bed etc.. and tried as best he could to explain them to me. He would excitedly show me something, return to his chair, and then jump up and show me something else.

The uniform exhibits were interesting to me, only because of the 'glitzy' uniforms that they wore, even the little water boy - those French - always thinking of fashion ;-)

I also started to appreciate the reverence that the French people feel (?)/felt for Napoleon, and wished at that time, that I knew more about French history - I've since done some reading.

The hospital was built by one of the Louis (forgive my ignorance), for war veterans and there were quite a few of them sitting outside in their wheelchairs on this sunny day.

The sarcophacus (sp ?) was quite a sight too.

I am not a military buff, but more of a history buff, so I would say, yes, go if you are in the area and have the time. The building itself, along with the other exhibits are INMO well worth seeing. DH went on a subsequent trip he enjoyed it too, but then he is a military buff.


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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 11:44 AM
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You can also see Napoleon's stuffed horsie!
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Old Jun 29th, 2006, 11:45 AM
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If you are interested in architecture, visit the tomb. The dome is beautiful. It needn't take long at all. It's in the general vicinity of the Eiffel tower, so why not?

We skipped the military museum because we're just not interested in such things.
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