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.