Faubourg Saint-Germain - 2nd Part 

From rue de Sevres to Hotel des Invalides

Stroll Paris 7th district Faubourg St Germain from rue de Sevres to Hotel des Invalidesbe

Rue de Sèvres

Just past the Grande Epicerie shops, there are the old buildings of the Laennec hospital, renovated into a number of residential units. My grand father was there towards the end of his life. The stones are said to hold the memories of the emotions and sufferings of those who lived in them. I therefore could not live there and I would rather receive the gentle vibrations from the memories of my grandfather especially in the streets of Paris that he knew by heart...

Ancien hôpital Laennec

The Chapelle Saint-Vincent de Paul on the other side of the street deserves a special mention. This beautiful 19th-century chapel was originally built to house the relics of Saint-Vincent de Paul, which were kept safe during the revolutionary turmoil. His undamaged remains were covered by a wax sculpture, providing a very vivid illusion of him resting peacefully. The silver shrine contrasts with the image of this man dedicated to the poor.  Renowned for his compassion for the poor, he also had close ties with the royal family. A staircase allows a closer look at the shrine. 

Chapelle Saint-Vincent de Paul

Going out of the Chapel, opposite the street near the Vanneau metro station, have a look at the art deco-style fountain known as the Fountain of the Fellah.

We now turn right into rue Vaneau.

Atget Fontaine rue de Sèvres

Fontaine, rue de Sèvres
Atget – 1899

Fontaine du Fellah rue de Sèvres

Rue Vaneau

At number 50, there is a delightful alley lined with plants, once occupied by craftsmen, including a famous bootmaker. The alley was also visited by the French writer and minister Andre Malraux and the pediatrician and psycho analyst Françoise Dolto, who helped in the creation of a cultural centre. His founder, Shri Mahesh, a master of Indian yoga, also set up a yoga school. This school created in the 1960s is still in operation and teaches the most classic of yogas, the hatha yoga ...

Passage 50 rue Vaneau

Come back a little to take the impasse Oudinot at number 55, which leads to the lovely Jardin Catherine Labouré.

Jardin Catherine Labouré 

This cute and hidden garden, which takes us well away from Paris, is the perfect place to take a break under the fruit trees or on the lawns. In the past it was the plant garden and orchard of the convent of the Daughters of Charity, that can still be seen from the garden and of which we visited the chapel at 140 rue du Bac. 

After a very nice break in the garden, let's take the exit on rue de Babylone, that we take on the left.

Jardin du Potager - impasse Oudinot
Jardin Catherine Labouré

Rue de Babylone

On the opposite side of the street, behind the walls is an other large garden, the one from Matignon, rue de Varenne. 

At no. 45, we are walking along a friendly old neighbourhood small restaurant called Au pied de fouet.

From the beginning of our stroll, we have essentially seen old mansions mostly housed by government ministries and embassies, as well as many religious places. As we now come closer to the Hôtel des Invalides, we can also see some military presence, such as the barracks of the Garde Républicaine located in this brick buildings typical of the 1930s.

We are now at 57, rue de Baylone ( the title of a novel by Alix de Saint-André, which tells the story of a boarding house called Home Pasteur and of those who stayed there), right next to the cinema La Pagode. The oldest arthouse cinema in Paris is now being renovated, a project that has caused quite a stir. Initially it was built in 1896, by Morin, owner of the mansion and  director of Le Bon Marché,  as a present for his wife.  Then the Japanese Pagoda fell into neglect and was nearly bought by a Chinese legation, who wanted to use it as a reception hall, until they discovered the paintings depicting battles won by the Japanese, their ancestral enemies.  In 1931, the Pagoda became a cinema, screening the first films of Bunuel, Renoir and Cocteau, and thirty years later of the French New Wave. When the cinema closed in 2015, there were many petitions and fights to protect the building. It was eventually sold to an American cinema lover and also property magnate. After the little Japanese garden where tea was served in the summer has been completely razed to the ground, the gingko and (twice) weeping beech cut down to make way for new rooms, we are being promised that everything will be recreated exactly as it was. To be followed...!?

Hôtel des Invalides

Let's now continue up to avenue de Villars from where we can see the Hôtel des Invalides and its famous golden dome under which the no less famous Napoleon lies buried. If you want,  you can stop at the church of Saint-François Xavier quite worth a visit.

Let's walk up Avenue de Villars to Place Vauban and enter the Hôtel des Invalides without a ticket (required if you want to visit the various museums and the Dome).

Hotel des Invalides - Dôme

The massive building, built by King Louis XIV, was intended to provide care to all war invalids, provided strict conditions: at least ten years' service, inability to fight, strict monastic discipline and a return to the field as soon as fit. Today, the institution is still providing care to seriously wounded soldiers, and to victims of war and terrorist attacks, such as the one that took place in Paris on 13 November 2015.

The Dome des Invalides was originally the Royal Church exclusively for the King, while the soldiers would enter through the door of the Church of Saint-Louis des Invalides. The church of Saint-Louis was then a single unit, the soldiers' church being the nave and the Dome the choir from which the King attended mass. The nave was separated from the Dome when the dome became a military pantheon. The crypt was specially built to contain the massive red quartzite Tomb of Napoleon.

Hôtel des Invalides is home to the vast Army Museum, which showcases all the creativity developed over the years to better defend oneself and kill others.

Now let's enter the church of Saint-Louis des Invalides. The single and bright nave is adorned with flags taken from the enemy since 1814. 

Eglise Saint-Louis des Invalides - drapeaux

After exiting the church we now cross the main courtyard. Among the various military-style roof windows, notice the so-called Louvois window on the right with a wolf's head. Louvois, as Minister of War, was involved in the construction of the Hôtel des Invalides. His name Louvois is the same French prononciation than Loup voit, meaning the wolf sees.

Cour d'Honneur - Hôtel des Invalides
Lucarne Louvois - Cour d'Honneur Invalides

We exit by the central porch, which has a fine frontispiece with Louis XIV dressed as a Roman.

Hotel des Invalides - Porche Louis XIV
Atget Hôtel des Invalides

Invalides - Grille
Atget – 1921
(Getty Museum)

Hôtel des Invalides Grille

Note the presence, altogether unexpected and touching, of the many rabbits frolicking happily between the enormous yew trees and their burrows in the lawns of the Invalides. This summer, as I was leaving the fascinating exhibit on the dreadful Wars of Religion that tore apart France in the 16th century, a topic that certainly raises issues of contemporary concern, the sight of these little rabbits gave me some comfort: men can keep on killing each other until the end of time, there will always be naive little rabbits in the middle of Paris, as if in the medieval tapestry of the Lady of the Unicorn or in a children's book.

Lapins pelouses Invalides

The second part of the stroll can end here, providing more time to visit the Dome and the Invalides museums.

Anyway it is also the starting point for the last part of the stroll.

Texte / Photos : Martine Combes

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