Eglise de la Madeleine tourism & sightseeing

Photo of Eglise de la Madeleine in Paris

Visit Eglise de la Madeleine (Paris, France)

The church of La Madeleine is located north of the Place de la Concorde and is one of the famous landmarks in Paris. The church is notorious for its size and history. It resembles a large Greek temple.

History of the Eglise de la Madeleine

The construction of La Madeleine began in 1764 during the reign of Louis XV, and was designed by architect Pierre Constant d'Ivry using plans based on the St-Louis-des-Invalides Church.

When d'Ivry died in 1777 his designs, which can be seen in the Musée Carnavalet, were dismissed by his successor, Guillome-Martin Couture. He decided to raze the unfinished building and start with a new design, this time based on the Panthéon. These  designs were also rejected and work stopped between 1790 and 1806.

Napoléon then decided that a Temple of Glory should be built for his Grande Armée and Pierre-Alexandre Vignon was authorised to draw up the plans. After doing away with the remaining efforts from 1790, building started on what was to be a beautiful Greek temple.

The commemorative role of the edifice was lost when the Arc de Triomphe was completed in 1808, and again the focus of the structure became unknown. In 1814, Louis XVIII confirmed that the Madeleine should be a church, but in 1837 it was almost selected to be the first railway station in Paris. Finally in 1842 it was consecrated as a church.

Exterior

Modelled on a Greek classical temple, the church is surrounded by 52 columns, each 20 metres tall in the Doric style and fronted by a huge pediment depicting The Last Judgement. At the front, the columns are topped with a sculpted frieze, again typical of the original Greek temples.

Interior

Inside the Eglise de la Madeleine a theatrical stone sculpture of the "Ascension of Sainte Marie Madeline" built in 1837 and showing her being swept up to heaven by two angels, was executed by Charles Marochetti (1805–67) and draws your eye to the high altar.

The half-dome above is decorated with a fresco by Jules-Claude Ziegler (1804–1856), a student of Ingres, and entitled The History of Christianity. It commemorates the concordat signed between the church and state after the end of the Revolution, and shows all the key figures in Christendom.

The church also boasts a pipe organ built by Cavaillé-Coll in 1846. Nowadays the organ is still used for concerts. The church's interior is otherwise rather gloomy, with gilt-edged marble decoration.

Surroundings

On the east side of the Madeleine church is one of the city's oldest flower markets, dating back to 1832 and open every day except Monday. Also nearby are what must be Paris's most luxurious public toilets, with ceramic walls and wooden doors with stained glass, preserving their original 1905 Art Nouveau décor.

Another attraction in the Place de la Madeleine is the famous "Fauchon" delicatessen shop in the northeast corner, and down the west side you'll find the smaller Hédiard's, for rich gourmets and window-gazers, as well as caviar and truffle specialists.

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Address: Paris, Paris, Paris, 75000, France || GPS: latitude 48.87, longitude 2.324167

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