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Musée des Plans Reliefs in Paris

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Did you know there is a museum in Paris with hundreds of models of towns and villages in France? It is the Muse des Plans Reliefs located at the Hôtel National des Invalides……. this is where the gold dome is in which Napoleon is buried under, that can be seen from all over the city.


By the way, many of these models are the size of a whole room…. you will not be disappointed in a visit there. Here is another site that has a bunch of youtube videos so you can see just how cool these are.


The French collection of relief maps is heir to a tradition that began in the sixteenth century in Europe. It was indeed common for military engineers make models to represent their projects fortifications , fortresses territory, or even siege works directed against a city.
The collection of Louis XIV was born in 1668, with the command Louvois, minister of war , passes Vauban relief map of Dunkirk. Achieving the first relief maps aimed to support the work of fortification engineers led by Louis XIV in the strongholds of Spanish Flanders recently conquered . Designed like real tools remote expertise for the king and his staff , the models were three-dimensional state of progress in a strong position , first presenting the projects and achievements during and finally completed the fortifications .


This type of three-dimensional representation offered to the monarch an overview of various fortifications of the kingdom , revealing the nature of the immediate way of leveling each strongholds and their scrolling. This ease of understanding of the sites was a great success , and Louis XIV ordered quickly achieving models of new defenses of the kingdom. More than mere instruments of labor, relief maps become from the 1680s through a prestigious representation defenses territory. Louis XIV decided in 1700 to install the collection in the Louvre, in the gallery of Bord- de- Eau .


The collection development continues under the Regency and throughout the reign of Louis XV . Many models are again built especially during or after the War of Austrian Succession (1741-1748) , is to represent the newly conquered fortifications , or to update the collection by replacing the relief maps considered obsolete . Meanwhile, the Minister of War in 1754 order restoring all relief maps . This maintenance work, if registered interest in these prestigious models by Louis XV and his staff sign the beginning of the decline of the collection. After that date , only relief maps of Saint- Omer ( 1758) and Fort St. Philip the Balearic (1759 ) are made : these are the last two relief maps constructed under the Ancien Régime. Then in 1774, the collection fails to be destroyed to release the Louvre gallery Bord- de- Eau order to install an art museum . She finally moved in 1777 in the attic of the Hotel des Invalides , where it remains. Engineers and workers attached to the gallery devoted twenty years to repair damaged models greatly during the move .

It was not until the Revolution, but especially the Napoleonic period, the art of reliefs knows a revival. The Emperor controls the production of models of major newly developed or implanted in the newly conquered territories sea and land arsenals : Luxembourg (1802) , La Spezia (1811) , Brest (1811) , Cherbourg ( 1811-1813 ) . Plans -reliefs of this period, made ​​from the method of surveying by contour lines are now remarkably accurate .

After the fall of the Empire , the gallery began to replace the relief maps seized by the Prussians in 1815, but also to follow the new fortification works carried out on the territory. Thus the models were made throughout the nineteenth century view difficult to treat in places very uneven projects like the Fort l'Ecluse (1832-1841) or Grenoble ( 1839-1848 ) . Construction plans -reliefs ends in 1870, with the abandonment by France for the construction of fortifications with bastions .

From 1668 to 1870 , 260 relief maps representing 150 fortified sites located at the borders of the kingdom and into the former French possessions were built. This unique collection of historical monument since 1927, still retains a hundred relief maps , fifteen of which are on deposit at the Musée des Beaux- Arts in Lille . It is supplemented by a series of important theoretical models of fortifications, designed between the eighteenth and nineteenth century to serve the education of students of different corps plans by Directors raised to 1/ 20000 , and by maps and topographical features . The Museum plans -reliefs , created in 1943, is attached to the Department of Architecture and Heritage Ministry of Culture and Communication . In 1997 was inaugurated the first two galleries of the museum, is being redeveloped .

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Musée des Plans-reliefs

Thank you for this topic about us ! We'll be pleased to welcome you and the members of your Guild during your next stay in Paris. You can also see more pictures of models and follow our news on Facebook and Twitter.

Best regards

Géraldine Froger

Cultural department

Musée des Plans-reliefs


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Thank you very much for joining and a big welcome. We hope you may post any special events your museum is doing or links to any research on the history of the models.

I have been to your museum twice and plan to return next time I'm in Paris.

It is also interesting you found this forum, it is very new and we are still in the test phase.

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  • 2 months later...
Musée des Plans-reliefs

Sorry for my late answer. I've just submitted some pictures of our relief-maps in the "Gallery" but I don't know if it worked.

Hope you will enjoyed it.

Don't hesitate to contact me the next time you plan to visit our museum, I will be delighted to welcome you.

Best regards

Géraldine Froger

Musée des Plans-reliefs (Paris)


PS : the museum is also on Facebook and Twitter

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