Val-de-Grâce: a Saving Grace

The Val-de-Grâce church is much of a saving grace in a neighbourhood which suffered in the hands of ruthless brutalist architects from the 1970s. Val-de-Grâce (the valley of grace literally) is a beautiful name.

Val-de-Grâce, a Saving Grace

On the last day of January 2022, I was able to roam around the Val-de-Grâce to take pictures of the buildings from new angles. As it happens, what I did was absolutely forbidden since this area is still military ground. Daisies were already out this year, a full month in advance.

The ‘Val-de-Grâce * is the earliest military hospital in France. The magnificent church and its monastery were built by Anne of Austria, the wife of Louis XIII, to thank God for the birth of her son, crowned as Louis XIV. During the revolution, the buildings were used as a military hospital […]

They used to “house the ‘École d’Application du Service de Santé des Armées’, where military physicians and pharmacists [could] hone their skills after having received their civil degrees. Instruction has been carried out by well-known pharmacists, physicians and scientists.

Le Val-de-Grâce Jacques Nauroy, Revue d’Histoire de la Pharmacie – 1973

At the end of the 1970s, a horrible building was erected there. Many VIPs went to the hospital over there. To name a few: François Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac, Palestine’s Yasser Arafat, Abbé Pierre and Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Val-de-Grâce
Photo by David Monniaux — Wikipedia Commons – 2005 – CC BY-SA 3.0,

The modern military hospital is now derelict. In 2020 the then President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron decided the PariSanté Health Research campus would settle down in this building, once rehabilitated.

Val-de-Grâce
A tree outside the Val-de-Grâce

Now, the Val-de-Grâce is mainly housing a 17th-century baroque Abbey and church. Even though it is now located in the midst of the City, in the 5th district, it looks both very remote and quiet. We decided to visit the museum of military early this month as we were having a stroll and taking pictures of trees (see above) and various other things.

We bumped into an old friend who lives in the neighbourhood and asked her about what was being done with this hospital and what was inside the Abbey now. She mentioned the museum of military medicine, which we then visited and therefore gained access to the Abbey.

We then found ourselves almost alone inside the Church of the Val-de-Grâce and enjoyed the beauties of this place and namely the cupola painted by Mignard.

Val-de-Grâce
“La gloire des bienheureux,” a fresco painting by Pierre Mignard

 

Val-de-Grâce
La Gloire des bienheureux by Pierre Mignard
Val-de-Grâce
A tilt-shift of the Val de Grâce from the East side
La gloire du Val-de-Grâce

La_gloire_du_Val-de-grace – a poem by Molière available from Gallica [‘Source gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque nationale de France’]

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