Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hôtel National des Invalides

This week, both of our courses focused on World War I, a topic of special interest and attention in France this year due to its centenary.  Like many institutions, the Musée de l'Armée (Museum of the Army), housed in the Hôtel des Invalides, organized a special World War I exhibit this fall.  We visited that and the museum's permanent exhibits on World War I and World War II as well as the Church of Saint-Louis and the Dôme des Invalides, which contains Napoléon I's tomb.  The Hôtel des Invalides was founded by Louis XIV in order to care for injured, homeless, and elderly war veterans.  Its courtyard has long served as a site for military celebrations.

The Dôme des Invalides houses Louis XIV's Royal Chapel and Napoléon I's tomb, surrounded by a 10 bas-relief sculptures representing the accomplishments of his empire.

After a long afternoon in the museum, we gathered for dinner at the café-restaurant Le Carré des Invalides, which taught us that it is possible to find a bad meal in Paris!  (We had a good time nonetheless.)

Among other things, we discussed at dinner the exhibits' presentation of the French participation in World War I and what we learned about French history.  Having just read about the American role in the war, including the Parisian experiences of American troops led by American General John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing, we were delighted to see this photograph in the exhibit of French President Poincaré joined by Pershing in the inner Courtyard of Honor of the Hôtel des Invalides reviewing French and American troops.

As we exited the Invalides through the Jardin de l'Intendant, we stopped at the water fountain dedicated to Victims of Terrorism (Nicolas Alquin, 1998).  Last Friday, the Minister of the Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve, attended a ceremony at the memorial commemorating the victims of terrorism.  There were fresh flowers from, among others, the Mayor of Paris, in memory of French mountaineering guide Hervé Gourdel, who was executed on Wednesday, September 24, in Algeria by terrorists.

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