The Museum of the Legion of Honor and the Orders of Chivalry offers a unique voyage through time and culture thanks to its 5.000 art objects and decorations from around the world.
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Unique in the world
The museum is dedicated to the orders of chivalry, decorations and medals – whose study is called “phaleristics” – and embraces all French and foreign honors from the Middle Ages to the present.
Its rich collections showcasing the Legion of Honor, its exceptional artifacts and its original way of tracing the course of history make it a one-of-a-kind museum.
A museum for everyone
Through its triple dimension – historical, sociological and artistic – the Museum of the Legion of Honor is destined to appeal to a broad audience: people who love beautiful objects, history buffs, admirers of the Legion of Honor and the First Empire, and phalerists as well as tourists who are curious to discover the treasures of a French institution.
Overview of the visit
The visit of the museum is orchestrated around five areas that take visitors from the birth of the chivalric orders in the period of the crusades up to the creation of the National Order of Merit by general de Gaulle in 1963, including the royal orders and the Legion of Honor.
The foreign orders room, a true cabinet of curiosities, showcases insignia from the entire world: more than 400 orders representing 122 countries throughout history.
Honor, merit and civic service, the values upheld by the national orders, are highlighted by the examples of emblematic men and women and the insignia that punctuate their paths in life. Video stations complete the evocation, illustrating these outstanding destinies.
This theme is suited for school children as a living civic education class through history.
History of the museum
The success of an exhibition entitled “The Legion of Honor and French decorations” at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1911 gave rise to the idea, within the Grand Chancellery of the Legion of Honor, of a permanent exhibition of French medals.
Interrupted by World War I, the project materialized after the war. The Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honor, then general Dubail, decided to devote a sanctuary to the glory of French people and foreigners afflicted by the war.
On his initiative, the Museum of the Legion of Honor and the Orders of Chivalry was founded in 1925, in the east wing of the Palace of the Legion of Honor, the former stables of the Hôtel de Salm.
To raise funds for the remodeling work, general Dubail appealed to recipients of the Legion of Honor and the Military Medal through a subscription effort. It was essentially thanks to the successive donations of an American business lawyer, William Nelson Cromwell, that the museum became a reality.
The museum was an immediate success, and in 1932 it was extended to accommodate foreign orders. It was entirely renovated and redesigned in 2006, and it now occupies the entire wing dedicated to it.
In 2008, the museum became a major international reference point thanks to the fabulous collection loaned by the world’s foremost collector in the area of orders and decorations, the Italian Antonio Benedetto Spada.
In 2016 and 2018, the exhibition spaces of the Legion of Honor, the National Order of Merit and the royal orders, enriched with new works, were redesigned in a display combining solemnity and education. The interactive arrangement allows visitors to explore the history of French decorations over the past thousand years and to discover the current workings of the national orders and their members.