European Finds – 14thJuly – Bastille Day

On the 14th July France celebrated Bastille Day with village fetes, fireworks, military parades and airshows.  The Bastille, a medieval fortress and prison in Paris was stormed on this day in 1789 by the people of Paris, they were in search of arms and gunpowder to use in their campaign against the French monarchy - the starting point of the French Revolution. 

After reading The Life of Napoleon last year, I was keen to see his tomb in the Musée de l’Armée in Paris.   So, I disembarked from the metro at Place de la Concorde, my very favourite place in Paris.   I love to marvel at the huge obelisk standing calmly, while the army of traffic (in particular noisy mopeds!) frantically charge around it.  The 75ft high obelisk was a gift from Egypt in 1833; it’s covered with from head to toe with wonderful hieroglyphs and beautiful gold inscriptions. 

From here I treated myself to a short walk down the Champs-Elysées and then turned left onto Ave. Winston Churchill - a wide avenue, with the Grand Palace on the left and the Petit Palaceon the right.   Although the Petit Palaceis not so petit and has an array of fabulousstone work and statues...


From there I passed over the Pont Alexandre lll

It’s a beautiful bridge with such elaborate Art Nouveau pieces such as lamps and golden cherubs, and at each end beautiful horses ride high on stone plinths– a museum in itself!

... I arrived at Invalides, the area ‘housing’ the Army Museum, the Rodin Museum and the Military School.  It’s a beautiful area with vast lawns and symmetrical walkways, and imposing cannons facing out across a deep moat.   TheFrench cannonsstand beside the ones ‘captured’ in the Prussian War and the Ottoman Empire.  One of the Prussian cannons particularly caught my eye, with two Royal Eagles perched on the top; the detail in the feathers is amazing!

The Army museum was originally a hospital for disabled soldiers, commissioned by Louis XlV.   There’s an impressive array of buildings - The Cathedral of St Louis,the Dome that holds Napoleon’s tomb, and various departments holding collections from the 13thcentury to 1870, and a collection covering the two World Wars.  

The crypt with Napoleon’s tomb lies at the back of the cathedral, it has a magnificent domecovering twisted marble columns, and beautiful frescoes – it really is breathtaking!

But, the most breathtaking part for me was the tomb itself...

It was crafted from red porphyry, and stands on a green granite base; the marble floor surroundingit has a large inlaid crown of laurels with inscriptions - reminders of the empires great victories.Napoleon was actually buried on the island of St Helena, where he had been in exile since 1815.  It was only in 1840 that his remains were brought back to Paris, where they lie underneath the granite base.

As you can see from my photos, the tomb could be viewed at ground level or from above on the circular balcony.  It was such an emotional experience that I completely forgot to take any photos while standing above.  It was so silent, and the enormity of the Revolution and the man from such a simple ‘beginning’ was quite overwhelming.

I certainly will go back, as the collections were huge I didn’t manage to see everything – and my feet were aching by the end of a long day!Hopefully next time the sun will have arrived in France, as you can see it’s still very overcast and dull and it’s nearly the end of July!


So, a slow strollback to the metro – and its lovely sign...