Tomb of Napoleon

TOMB OF NAPOLEON PARIS — Beneath the gilded dome of the Invalides is one of the most impressive sights on earth. In a vast marble-lined apartment the visitor leans over a circular marble railing and looks on a crypt twenty feet deep and thirty-six in diameter. There on a pavement of mosaic in the form of a star, around which are inscribed the names of Bonaparte’s most brilliant victories (Rivoli, Austerlitz, Marengo, Wagram, The Pyramids, Moscow, etc.), rises a grand sarcophagus of porphyry, a single block of stone brought hither from Finland, and weighing sixty-seven tons. It is the Tomb of Napoleon. Around this crypt are twelve colossal statues of Victory, and several groups of battle-flags captured in the Napoleonic wars. A colored light from stained glass windows in the roof invests this solemn circle of the dead with an ineffable solemnity. The entrance of the crypt is flanked by two sarcophagi, the burial places of the Emperor’s friends, Duroc and Bertrand, one of whom died in battle for his adored chieftain, while the other followed Napoleon to St. Helena and shared his pitiable captivity until by Death the imperial captive was at last set free. Above the entrance to the crypt are these words from Napoleon’s will dictated at St. Helena: “I desire that my ashes may repose on the banks of the Seine, among the French people I so dearly loved.” His wish has been fulfilled. No more magnificent sepulchre exists on earth than that which shelters here the ashes of the great Napoleon. (from John L. Stoddard, Glimpses of the world; a portfolio of photographs of the marvelous works of God and man – 1892)


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