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Napoleon's Tomb (Paris, France)

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located in Les Invalides originally built by Louis XIV (of Versailles fame) as a hospital for injured soldiers, now the home of Napoleon's Tomb and the Musée de l'Armée (a comprehensive war museum). Esplanade des Invalides, 7th Arrondissement, Par

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      28.12.2010 17:49
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      Over the top resting place for an over the top man

      I can almost hear Napoleon howling with laughter in his tomb in the old Invalides hospital. He got exactly what he wanted with this. As he dictated his own history on St Helena, he was eyeing such a prize as this embarrassing shrine. Don't get me wrong, I love it - Napoleon was a great man; an administrator, a general, a writer, a self publicist and ultimately a great actor. This over the top monstrosity below a golden dome is testimony to his abilities as a fable maker. For you see, Napoleon was just a man - an interesting one - but a mere man none the less. To look at his tomb and the homo-erotic friezes which surround it, you could be forgiven for thinking some kind of messiah was within that curious block of weirdness. The man isn't even buried - he is literally inside a big cupboard on a plinth. The first thing which struck me about the tomb was in order to view it, you first have to approach a large circular platform and look down, as if staring into a pit. He has been positioned in a literal underworld. It is possible to go down to a level below and see the tomb from a lower angle. From there the bizarre friezes can be seen close-up. These show a muscled and topless Napoleon with a crown upon his head, looking like a prototype for the Village People. As much as I admire Napoleon, I was utterly disgusted with this image of the man with his arms outstretched like a messiah.

      There are some original artefacts on display including the man's old hat and grey greatcoat. There are also some other tombs of people not worth a mention (two of Napoleon's useless and perennially ungrateful brothers - one of whom - Jerome - is only fit to be buried in a pauper's grave). Hidden away behind a display is the tomb of Turenne. Napoleon would be outraged Turenne has been obscured in this manner. Napoleon's pal Duroc is hidden away in the vaults, as is Bertrand who went to St Helena with his master. A bad taste is left in the mouth when you consider Napoleon's heir (his third son Napoleon II - the first 2 being out with marriage) was interned within the Invalides by Adolf Hitler. Is it any wonder ill informed people like to draw comparisons between Bonaparte and Hitler. Still, Napoleon dearly loved that boy and it was touching to think they had been re-united in some capacity.

      Within the complex is the Army Museum which has an interesting World War II collection and an impressive selection of suits of armour. There is a also a museum dedicated to military models, which was reinvigorated by the first Emperor during his reign. I appreciate architecture and found this additional display very interesting - and it wasn't as busy as the other nooks and crannies. The souvenir shop is a class above the tat you normally see, but off course caters primarily to French speakers in terms of the books. At the front of the building there are some big cannon, which always good for a photo opportunity. They seem to point at the citizens of Paris, as if in anticipation of a riot or another revolution. I enjoyed staring menacingly at the tourist buses whilst having one hand on a cannon. Metro access is convenient and there are several nice cafes close by also.

      As a final note, the joke is actually on Napoleon because he may have got the tomb in the end (as opposed to the unmarked grave in the South Atlantic) but he hated the people - yet they scour about pointing and pontificating. Anyone can gawk and Napoleon can do nothing about it.

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        27.11.2000 03:42
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        Despite the numerous streets and locations named after Napoleon I (or after people related to him), his tomb is usually not regarded as a prime attraction of Paris. This is a pity, because the Dome des Invalides, Napoleon's tomb, and the adjoining Musee de l'Armee, are attractions I invariably re-visit every time I have a few days to spare in Paris. So far I have visited Invalides four times: June 1991, October 1997, October 1998, and July 1999. It has remained intensely interesting to this day. The main attraction is, of course, Napoleon's tomb. This tomb is set under the golden dome of the Invalides, which is plainly visible from just about every major vantage point in the city. Napoleon, who was originally buried in St. Helena, his place of exile, was later moved here in accordance with his wishes to "be buried on the banks of the Seine, among the people whom I have loved so much." The dome housing his tomb is of elaborate design, echoing past glories of Napoleon and his army. On the marble(?) floor of the building, going in a circle around the tomb, are engraved Napoleon's eight greatest victories: "RIVOLI-PYRAMIDES-MARENGO-AUSTERLITZ-IENA-FRIEDLAND-WAGRAM-MOSCOWA" [unfortunately not really visible in the picture supplied by dooyoo]. Appropriate, for the man who was at one time master of Europe, and who so inspired the French nation for decades to come. Next to the dome building is another church, with an array of battle banners taken by the French during the Napoleonic Wars. This is quite interesting to enthusiasts of the wars. I spotted flags from as far apart as Egypt and Holland. After perusing the tomb and its environs, walking through the nearby Musee de l'Armee (Army Museum) can easily take up the rest of the day. An impressive collection of weapons and other paraphernalia from various French campaigns are on display. Of special interest are the extensive sections on the Napoleon
        ic Wars, the time of Louis XIV (i.e. the Thirty Years' War), and the two World Wars. There are also a great deal of very interesting life-size wax figures, wearing military uniforms from many different time periods. The full package of these three attractions should be available for around £7. An absolute must for military history enthusiasts, as the Musee de l'Armee is the best army museum I have yet visited. Those interested in Napoleon should also go to all three attractions, since there is a large section on Napoleon and his campaigns in the museum. Overall highly advisable if you have more than a few days to spend in Paris. Especially recommended for anyone at least moderately interested in Napoleon.

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      • Product Details

        located in Les Invalides originally built by Louis XIV (of Versailles fame) as a hospital for injured soldiers, now the home of Napoleon's Tomb and the Musée de l'Armée (a comprehensive war museum).