Dôme des Invalides, tomb of Napoleon I


The Dôme des Invalides, which contains Napoleon I's tomb, is the emblem of the Hôtel National des Invalides and an unmissable monument in the Parisian landscape. Hear its story and learn about its role throughout the centuries, from its creation to the present day.

The 360° Dome Church programme was produced by the Army Museum and created by Electronic Eye

The Dôme des Invalides, the Dome Church

Photo de l'église du Dôme

This royal chapel was built between 1677 and 1706. The interior decorations produced at that time glorify Louis XIV, the monarchy and his armies.

Known as the Temple de Mars during the Revolution, the Dome Church became a military pantheon during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, with the installation of the Turenne tomb (1800) and a funeral monument to Vauban (1807-1808). In 1800, the First Consul ordered the body of Turenne, one of the most famous marshals of France in the Great Century, to be transferred under the Dome, in a monumental tomb. After becoming the Emperor of the French, he repeated this process on 26 May 1808, transferring Vauban's heart to a mausoleum erected opposite Turenne's. Built by Trepsat, the initial mausoleum erected in the Chapel of Saint Theresa includes a single column with an urn on top, sitting on a base with trophies on it.

In 1847, as part of the architect Visconti's works in the crypt designed to receive Napoleon's tomb, this monument was replaced by a black marble coffin made by the sculptor Antoine Etex. It depicts Vauban semi-recumbent. He holds a compass and meditates on his writings. He is surrounded by the veiled figure of Science and the figure of War, which wears a helmet. On top of the coffin is an obelisk surrounded by flags and standards. An inscription and a bas-relief on the base refer to Vauban's project for a royal tithe and celebrate the political and reformatory aspect of Vauban's work.

Nowadays, alongside Napoleon I's tomb, the Dome contains the graves of his son, l'Aiglon, the King of Rome, his brothers Joseph and Jérôme Bonaparte, the Generals Bertrand and Duroc, and the two famous marshals of the first half of the 20th century, Foch and Lyautey.

The tomb of Napoleon I

Photo du tombeau de Napoléon Ier

On 5 May 1821, Napoleon I passed away on the island of St. Helena, where he had been in exile since 1815. He was buried near a spring, in the shade of a few weeping willows, in the "valley of Geraniums". His remains stayed there until 1840. In 1840, King Louis-Philippe decided to transfer the Emperor's body. French sailors, under the command of the Prince of Joinville, brought his coffin to France aboard the ship "Belle Poule".

A state funeral accompanied the return of Emperor Napoleon I's ashes, which were transferred to Les Invalides on 15 December 1840 while the tomb was being built. The architect Visconti (1791-1853) was commissioned to make it in 1842 by King Louis-Philippe, who had extensive work carried out beneath the Dome, involving an immense excavation to create a space for the tomb. The body of Emperor Napoleon I was placed there on 2 April 1861.

The tomb, sculpted from blocks of red quartzite and placed on a green Vosges granite base, is surrounded by a laurel crown and inscriptions referring to the Empire's great victories. Surrounding the Tomb, twelve "Victories" sculpted by Pradier symbolise Napoleon's military campaigns. 8 famous victories are inscribed on the polychrome marble floor. In the circular gallery, a set of 10 bas-reliefs sculpted by Simart depict the main achievements of his reign: pacification of the nation, administrative centralisation, State Council, Civil Code, Concordat, Imperial University, court of accounts, code of commerce, Major Works and the Legion of Honour. At the back of the crypt, above the slab on top of the King of Rome's grave, stands a statue of the Emperor clad in the symbols of the Empire.