Musee National de la Legion d’Honneur Museum in Paris
This is actually one of the free museums in Paris to visit, which is located by the River Seine in the old palace or mansion house of the Hotel de Salm and it is also home to the chancery of the Legion of Honour order.
About the Hotel de Salm
The palace was commissioned by Prince Frederic III of Salm-Kyrbourg, which is hence why it was called the Hotel de Salm, and the architect Pierre Rousseau was entrusted with its construction.
The Hotel de Salm was started in 1782, yet not fully completed until 1788 and it was during this time that Thomas Jefferson, who founded the American Declaration of Independence and lived in Paris while being the United States Minister to France, used to walk past this mansion house daily.
He admired the building so much that his Monticello home in Virginia, America, was redesigned with a dome just like this mansion house, and you can now also discover the Thomas Jefferson statue in Paris that looks towards the Hotel de Salm.
But getting back to this particular building, it has been home to the Legion of Honour since 3rd May 1804, which is approximately two years after Napoleon Bonaparte I first created the Legion d’Honneur in 1802.
Unfortunately the Hotel de Salm was severely damaged by fire during the Paris Commune, yet it was completely rebuilt absolutely identical to the original mansion between the years of 1871 and 1878 by the architect Anastase Mortier.
The Beginnings of the Musee de la Legion d’Honneur
The museum of the Legion of Honour was founded by General Yvon Dubail and funded by contributions from the Legion of Honour and military medal holders, with much of the response coming from the United States.
It was established in a wing of the Hotel de Salm, which was where the original stables of the mansion were located, and constructed from 1922 through to 1925 when it first opened, the initial exhibition mainly came from the Grand Chancery, national museums and a collection that had been owned by Maurice Bucquet.
With a full official name of the Musee National de la Legion d'Honneur et des Ordres de Chevalerie, which translates to the National Museum of the Legion of Honour and its Orders of Knighthood, numerous donations and prestigious purchases have been added to the collection over the years.
About Musee de la Legion d’Honneur Museum in Paris
There are now different rooms to discover at the Musee National de la Legion d’Honneur et des Ordres de Chevalerie and one of these is dedicated to the orders of chivalry of the royal and religious chivalrous orders, which is where you can find out about the Legion of Honour roots.
Another room at the museum is dedicated purely to the Legion of Honour that Napoleon Bonaparte I created back in 1802, and even today, this prestigious award is still the symbol of courage, talent or dedication to the nation of France.
It is here that you can see the white star medal, which is the main symbol, even though the central image of this has changed throughout history from empire to republic, but its meaning still remains true to the hope and founders of this prestigious award.
Another area at the Musee de la Legion d’Honneur is separated into different spaces, which provide an insight into the history of the different orders, the decorations from the earliest commemorative medals that were awarded in France from 1789, the heroes of World War I are highlighted in the centre, and then to the most recent different orders.
Military medals including the insignia of a Crimean War Veteran, a World War I infantry man and Jean Moulin, the French Resistance fighter, are all included within another section that is designed to display the extraordinary courage of these people, along with many others.
There is also a multimedia resource centre where visitors to this museum in Paris can discover over 300 different profiles of men and women with their distinctions and the roles they played with their virtues and building the foundations of France.
In addition to this, there is a photo and media section with audiovisual terminals located at different points around the room, so that the visitor can have an even more interactive experience, which highlights the history of the French Orders.
Here you will be introduced to prominent people in the history of France such as Louis Pasteur, General Eisenhower, Jean Moulin, Sebastien-Le-Prestre-de-Vauban the incredible military engineer, Andre Citroen and Eric Tabarly who was a naval captain and French yachtsman.
With its completely renovated showcases, audio guides available in French or English and the multimedia tour, the incredible Musee de la Legion d’Honneur et des Ordres de Chevalerie looks at the history of Paris and France from a completely different angle.
We also mentioned earlier that different orders are recognised, so apart from those relating to France, you can see numerous medals, etc from different countries, many of which are to be found within pull out drawers located below the main showcase, which are categorised by country, such as Britain, Germany, Spain and so on.
This is a fascinating, yet little known museum in Paris, which is well worth a visit and has been visited by many foreign dignitaries, with the most recent being Prince Albert II of Monaco in 2018, after having donated two very rare decorations including a badge from the First Empire, back in 2014.
Access to the Musee de la Legion d’Honneur Museum
This museum in Paris is open on a Wednesday through to a Sunday from 1pm to 6pm, yet is only open on a Tuesday for group reservations that have been booked in advance. However, it is closed on a Monday and on all national French holidays such as 1st May, Ascension Thursday, 15th August, etc.
You will be pleased to know that admission to the Musee de la Legion d’Honneur et des Ordres de Chevalerie is completely free of charge to all visitors and this also includes an audio guide that is available in the English or French language.
However, for group bookings on a Tuesday with a guided tour and an audio guide available in French or English, there is a cost of €145 as of 2013 for a maximum of 25 adults per group, but there are also special visits and workshops available for children as well.
You may also be pleased to know that the museum is accessible to the disabled and for wheelchair access you would the entrance of 1 Rue de Solferino, 75007, Paris, and for those of you that want to discover more, there is also a bookshop open the same times as the museum that also has many different gifts on sale.
For researchers, there is also a library and archive section. However, the library and archive sections are only available by prior appointment, along with providing the purpose of the research, as to why you want to access this section. Then it will be determined if you are granted access, which must be done either by telephone then in writing or via mail.
Access to the Musee National de la Legion d'Honneur
You can find this museum in the 7th Arrondissement along the River Seine right by the Musee d’Orsay, which is located in one of the old train stations in Paris, and it also next to the Orsay museum esplanade on the opposite bank to the Tuileries Gardens of the impressive Musee du Louvre museum.
When it comes to getting to the Musee National de la Legion d’Honneur via public transport, the nearest Metro stations are called the Solferino stop or the Assemblee National stop, both serving line 12.
You will find that the nearest RER train station is the Musee d’Orsay stop serving the RER C Line, plus there are numerous buses that will get you within walking distance of this museum and other tourist attractions in Paris, such as the bus lines 24, 63, 68, 69, 72, 73, 83, 84 and 94, along with the Noctilien Night Bus Service via lines N01, N02, N11 and N24 will also get you close by.
In addition to these options there is also the Batobus, which is the water bus that travels on a circuit up and down the River Seine, plus there are the tour buses like l’OpenTour and a Velib station for the self service bike hire is also located within easy reach of the Musee de la Legion d’Honneur et des Ordres de Chevalerie.