The Musée des Plans-Reliefs is a museum of military models located within the Hôtel des Invalides in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, France.Using our online itinerary creator, Paris attractions like Musee des Plans-Reliefs can form part of a personalized travel itinerary.
The construction of models dates to 1668 when François-Michel le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois and minister of war to Louis XIV, began a collection of three-dimensional models of fortified cities for military purposes, known as 'plans-relief'. The models gave particular attention to the city fortifications and topographic features such as hills and harbors. In 1700 Louis XIV installed the collection in the Louvre. Initially the models were constructed in the field, by military engineers, but in 1743 two central workshops were established for their construction in Béthune and Lille. A large number of models were built during and after the War of the Austrian Succession (1741–1748) to represent newly captured sites. The collection was updated in 1754, but then fell into some disuse; the final models built under the Ancien Régime were those of Saint-Omer (1758) and the fort Saint-Philippe aux Baléares (1759).
In 1774 the collection was nearly destroyed when its Louvre gallery was rededicated to paintings, but was in 1777 moved to the Hôtel des Invalides where it remains to this day. Under Napoleon, a new set of models was built, including Luxembourg (1802), La Spezia (1811), Brest (1811), and Cherbourg (1811–1813). In 1814, 17 models mainly of German cities were taken to Berlin. Some were replaced and their production then continued until about 1870, when it drew to a close with the disappearance of fortifications bastionnées. The collection was declared a historical monument in 1927, and the museum established in 1943.
All told, some 260 plans-reliefs were created between 1668 and 1870, representing about 150 fortified sites. Today, 112 models are conserved by this museum, of which 15 are kept in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lille. Additional models among those taken by the Prussians were later given to the cities of Strasbourg and Landau in der Pfalz. At present, the museum displays 28 plans-reliefs of fortifications along the English Channel, the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, and the Pyrenees. It also contains presentations on construction and use of the plans-reliefs.
The museum is open daily except the first Monday of each month; an admission fee is charged.
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Musee des Plans-Reliefs Reviews
When you go to see Napoleon's Tomb, take the time to see the military museum and the Musee des Plans-Reliefs just behind. Signage isn't great, but it is in the back to the right of the courtyard. more »
Enormous models of landscapes from God knows where. Amazing detail , incredibly old and lit up in a way that was cool. The room was dark and only the models were lit. I had the museum pass, if you... more »
The scale and detail of the models is amazing, expansive collection of ~20 scale models of fortified cities.
"Find me," my wife said, "a small, quirky museum." I succeed. Ignoring the other rooms on our ascent of the stairs, we arrived at the Plans-Reliefs and it was everything I'd hoped. Dark, detailed, beautifully designed and minimal (in terms of the exhibit enclosures), and almost completely deserted. I think there was one other couple in there the whole time we looked, enthralled, at these exquisite models. They were designed and realized to leave no detail un-noted, because their defensive purpose required it. There is a sense in these reliefs of how life was actually lived in the 18th and 19th century in rural and urban France. With detailing at the level of hedgerows and farmhouses, one could move around the exhibits and imagine people moving through the landscape. It was a lovely moment of quiet and contemplation during a really delightful visit to Paris. I should note that my wife is an architect, and I share her fascination and enthusiasm for perfectly detailed models, so this choice was perfect for us. Not everyone may find this attention to detail in a calm quiet setting as gripping as we did, but for those who might, I cannot recommend this wonderful museum highly enough.
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