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École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr
ESM close-up Bastille Day 2008.jpg
Motto "Ils s'instruisent pour vaincre": literally "They study to vanquish" or "Training for victory".
Established 1 May 1802
Type Military college
Commandant Major General Éric Bonnemaison[1][2]
Undergraduates none (undergraduate degree in a military or civilian preparatory college is a prerequisite)
Postgraduates equivalent of a master's degree
Location Coëtquidan in Guer, Morbihan, Brittany, France
Campus rural
Colours Red, White & Blue           and     
Nickname Saint-cyrien, cyrard

The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM, literally the "Special Military School of Saint-Cyr") is the foremost French military academy. It is often referred to as Saint-Cyr (French pronunciation: ​[sɛ̃ siʁ]). Its motto is "Ils s'instruisent pour vaincre": literally "They study to vanquish" or "Training for victory". French cadet officers are named "saint-cyriens", or "cyrards". The École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr is located in Coëtquidan in Guer, Morbihan department, Brittany, France.[1][3]

French students who enter the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr as cadets are about 21 years old, and undergo three years of training. All ESM cadets graduate with a master of arts or a master of science and are commissioned officers.[1][3]

The Academy was founded in Fontainebleau in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte near Paris in the buildings of the Maison Royale de Saint-Louis, a school founded in 1685 by Louis XIV for impoverished daughters of noblemen who had died for France. The cadets moved several times more, eventually settling in Saint-Cyr, located west of Paris, in 1808.


Lycée militaire de Saint-Cyr, seat of the Academy from 1808 to 1940, now in Camp Coëtquidan.

The colonel, supervisor of the Cadets' studies, during the Bastille Day Military Parade.

The Color guard of Saint-Cyr.

The 1st rank of the first company of cadets.

The École Spéciale Militaire was created by order of Napoleon Bonaparte on May 1, 1802 (the Law of 11 Floréal an X according to the then-official revolutionary calendar), to replace the École Royale Militaire then located in Fontainebleau. Renamed the École Spéciale Impériale Militaire after Bonaparte was proclaimed Emperor, it moved in 1808 to Saint-Cyr-l'École (Yvelines) in the castle of the former Maison royale de Saint-Louis, a school for girls of the French nobility disbanded at the time of the Revolution.

The school trained a large number of young officers who served during the Napoleonic Wars. It remained stationed in Saint-Cyr-L'École after Napoleon's deposition and through all regime changes until 1940. After the defeat of the French Army against Germany in 1940, the school moved to the free zone, in the south of France, in Aix-en-Provence. After the invasion of the free zone by the Germans in 1942, the school was disbanded, but French cadet officer training went on, part in Cherchell (Algeria, then Free French territory) and part in the United Kingdom(Cadets de la France Libre) under General de Gaulle's command.

At the Libération of France in 1944, the School was reunited under the command of General de Lattre de Tassigny and settled in the military camp of Coëtquidan, Morbihan, because the "vieux bahut" (old school) had been severely damaged by an Allied bombing during the Libération campaign.

The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr has remained there to this day. A reform in 1961 split the school into two entities: the current École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM), devoted to the training of direct recruitment officers, recruited through an annual national competitive exam, and the École Militaire Interarmes (EMIA), cadets from internal recruitment (selected from non-commissioned officer (NCO) ranks and reserve officer ranks) and added a third entity, the École Militaire du Corps Technique et Administratif (EMCTA), devoted to the formation of administrative specialist officers. The school admitted its first female cadets in 1983 and underwent a minor reform in 2002 devised to broaden the diversity of its direct recruitment.

Since 1802, 65,000 saint-cyriens have been trained, along with 2,000 international cadets. Nine thousand six hundred thirty-nine of them died on the field of battle. Alumni also count 11 Maréchaux de France, three French heads of state, two flying aces, six members of the Académie Française, and one Blessed of the Catholic Church.


Napoleon's original motto, "Ils s'instruisent pour vaincre" ("They study to overcome/conquer/win"), was changed by the restoration king, Louis XVIII, to: "Ils s'instruisent pour la Défense de la Patrie" ("They study for the Defence of the Fatherland"). The Napoleonic version was used again from 1848 to 1870. That motto was next changed to "Honneur et Patrie" ("Honour and Fatherland") until 1918, when it reverted again to the original Napoleonic wording.


The museum is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings from 10 a.m. – 12 a.m. to group tours and afternoons to the public on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 2:30 p.m. – 5 p.m. On the weekend, the museum is open to the public from 10 a.m. – 12 a.m. and from 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. The museum is closed to the public on Mondays and it is closed from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays. The museum is located on Rivoli court. The permanent collection explores the lives of the saint-cyrien from the end of the ancient regime to today. The collection shows the evolution of the uniform, personal objects, artwork, authentic documents, arms, clothing and family relics.


Using authentic battle gear and uniforms of the period, re-enactments of famous battles and ceremonies are staged. The most famous of these is the Battle of Austerlitz, which took place on December 2, 1805 and has been celebrated since.


The cadets of Saint-Cyr are recruited through a national annual competitive exam, after previous tertiary education. French students take exams on general knowledge, aptitude and intelligence; sit for an interview and pass a test of physical ability.

  • Standard test (concours sur épreuves) : These saint-cyriens after undergraduate education, like most other French Grandes écoles, two years of classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles or a three-years bachelor's degree in a university.
  • Interview and record exam (concours sur titres) : These saint-cyriens are recruited after graduate education (master's degree). They will follow only the last year of Saint-Cyr training.

In addition, a number of foreign students are admitted annually.


The course is three years long and covers academic training, military training, physical training and leadership training.

The first year involves military training and academics. The last two years focus on academics with one to three week breaks for military training. Officer cadets at St-Cyr are commissioned officers. The cadets attend school from September to July.

Each promotion (class) of the ESM is organised as a battalion. The 1st-year students (rank of élève-officier – Cadet) are France's Third Battalion, 2nd-year (rank of aspirant – Officer Designate) are France's Second Battalion and third-year (rank of sous-lieutenant – 2nd Lieutenant) are France's First Battalion. The Reserve Officers, Special Duty Officers and Aspirants trained at the ESM in short sessions are France's Fourth Battalion.

Upon graduation, cadets are awarded the diploma of Saint-Cyr, which is a Master's Degree in Strategy and Internationals Relations or Management, or an engineer's degree, depending on their major. Majors are in engineering or science subjects or specialization in classics, modern or ancient history, modern languages, applied modern languages, geography, science and economics, law, computer science, physical education, political science or Asian studies.

Graduates leave the school with the rank of lieutenant and join the specialist school of the branch they select for one additional year, before being assigned to a regiment to serve as a platoon leader.

Distinguished alumni


External links

Coordinates: 47°56′43″N 2°09′08″W / 47.9453°N 2.1522°W / 47.9453; -2.1522

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