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Posted on Apr 21, 2010 in War College

Musée de l’Armée: Beyond The Art Museums In The City Of Lights

By Peter Suciu

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Originally built as a hospital, today the Musée de l'Armée is one of Europe's largest military museums.

The French army gets a bad rap, thanks in no small part to its infamous defeat at the hands of the Germans during the Blitzkrieg campaign in the Second World War. Of course there was also the downfall of the Emperor Napoleon, the loss to the Prussians and the other German states in the Franco-Prussian War and various post-World War II colonial disasters including those in French Indo-China and of course Algeria. So it is easy to poke fun at the French, but that would overlook the might of the empires created by Napoleon, and by the Third Republic that rivaled even the might of the British Empire.

Likewise, while many bookworm scholars may point out that France faced near disaster in the First World War, the fact is that the Germans failed to take Paris, and ended up on the losing end of war of attrition. This might not have been France’s greatest military moment, but it was hardly its darkest hour.

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And visitors to Paris can partake in France’s military highlights at the Musée de l’Armée, a massive museum that features one of the most impressive collections of militaria in the world. Originally built as a hospital, and as a home for the disabled soldiers by King Louis XIV, the Palace Les Invalides features a collection that spans the era of human warfare from antiquity to the modern day.

Interestingly, the museum was originally established following the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, as the Museum of Artillery, and was expanded greatly in 1878 to include various artifacts from France’s colonial empire. A separate Army museum had also been created in 1896, but the two museums were merged in 1905, and now features an area that spans some 12,000 meters, and includes more than 500,000 artifacts. Today this is one of the most impressive military museums in the world, and will impress anyone with an interest in military history – even those not impressed by France’s own military heritage.

The museum is open every day of the year, except for the first Monday of every month, and is closed on major holidays including Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and the first of May and the first of November. Admission is charged. The official site: http://www.invalides.org/

1 Comment

  1. I am researching three members of the Lafayette Escadrille. It is my understanding that there is a plaque at le Musée de l’Armée which commorates the death of two of these young pilots who flew for France.
    I would like to know if you have any other mementoes or documents that might mention Courtney Campbell, James McConnell or Charles Chouteau Johnson. I will be in Paris the first part of March.

    Thank you for your consideration,
    Susan Craig

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