Anne of Austria was the wife of Louis XIII. When she after 23 years of marriage – at the age of 36 - at last gave birth to child, a son, the future Louis XIV, she decided in gratitude to build a chapel as part of a Benedictine convent she had previously founded. It seems that the seven year old son laid the cornerstone in 1645. The Val-de-Grâce church stood ready in 1667. One of the two architects was François Mansart. The roof painting is by Pierre Mignard (who gave the name to “mignardise” – a French word for delicacy), close friend of Molière. He later became “first painter” of the Royal court.
The Benedictine convent was used as a military hospital during the revolutionary years and the church was one of the few which escaped from vandalism. It remains therefore as it was and is certainly one of the best examples in Paris of baroque architecture. To make sure to have the marble floor saved, a sacristan had it covered by plaster; it was rediscovered only some decades later.
After the Revolution, the convent was converted to a military hospital and it still is, although open also to non military. Large modern buildings have been added in the 70’s. The hospital is normally the one where the French top officials are brought in case of need.
The old convent buildings have been transformed to a museum (photos not allowed) for French army medicine. They also house the Army Medical School.