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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 Nicolas de Lardemelle
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 St 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] [2]

French students who enter the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr as cadets are about 21 years old. The three-year term of study at Saint-Cyr has been modified in recent years to reflect the system of credit used in "civilian" academic programs, by integrating the "European Credit Transfer System" (ECTS). All ESM cadets graduate with a master of arts or a master of science and are commissioned officers. [1] [2]

The Academy was founded in Fontainebleau in 1803 by Napoleon Bonaparte near Paris in the buildings of the Maison Royale de St-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. 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 homeland"). The Napoleonic version was used again from 1848 to 1870. That motto was next changed to "Honneur et Patrie" ("Honour and Country") until 1918, when it reverted again to the original Napoleonic wording. Major General Nicholas de Lardemelle is Commandant of Saint-Cyr. [1] [2]



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.


The museum is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings from 10am-12am. to group tours and afternoons to the public on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 2:30 pm-5pm. On the weekend, the museum is open to the public from 10am-12am and from 2pm-6pm. The museum is closed to the public on Mondays and it is closed from 2:30 to 5pm 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.


Students who already completed an undergraduate degree and/or have graduated from a Grande École (a national polytechnic college) may apply. French students take exams on general knowledge, aptitude and intelligence; sit for an interview and pass a test of physical ability. In addition, a number of foreign students are admitted annually.


The saint-cyriens are recruited through a national annual competitive exam at the academic level of Bac+2, like most other French Grandes écoles. 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 1-3 week breaks for military training. Officer cadets at St-Cyr are commissioned officers. The cadets attend school from September-July.

Each promotions of the ESM is organised as a battalion. The 1st-year students (rank of élève-officier) are France's Third Battalion, 2nd-year (rank of aspirant) are France's Second Battalion and 3rd-year (rank of sous-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 and an academic diploma equivalent to a master's degree, depending on their major. Majors are in engineering or science subjects or specialisation 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.

They 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



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