Madeleine Church is one of the most astonishing religious buildings in Paris, with its air of a classic temple of Ancient Greece.

Madeleine Church

Photography : Elisabeth Perotin

Napoleon decided to create a temple in Paris

The Madeleine Church is located between Place de la Concorde and the Opéra Garnier, in Haussmannian Paris. Begun under Louis XIV In 1777, on the death of the architect in charge of the site, his student imagined a new project and undertook significant modifications, until the French Revolution stopped the work. In 1806, Napoleon decided to create a temple in Paris to the glory of the soldiers of the Grande Armée on the site of the Madeleine. The previous construction was again razed. But the work, once again, progressed slowly, and the project for a temple dedicated to the armies was abandoned in favor of the Arc de Triomphe.

A neoclassical architectural style

The monument was finally returned to Catholic worship in 1816, and the work was not completed until 1842. The Madeleine Church may seem surprising from the outside, since its neoclassical architectural style closely resembles that of Greek temples. The building is framed by 52 Corinthian columns 20 meters high, which make it all the more imposing. On the main facade there is a large pediment in high relief representing “The Last Judgment”. The interior of the church, lightly lit, is made up of a single nave with three domes which are not visible from the outside.

A sculpture representing the rapture of Mary Magdalene

On the main altar of the church, you can discover a sculpture representing the rapture of Mary Magdalene, and just above the altar, a dome where a fresco on the history of Christianity is drawn. Its appearance, atypical for a religious building, has the shape of a Greek temple without a cross or bell tower. Napoleon’s wish was to make it a pantheon to the glory of his armies. Before entering through the two monumental bronze doors, we admire the Corinthian columns which surround the building. Inside: sculptures, paintings and the famous mosaic (composed by Charles-Joseph Lameire) in neo-Byzantine style. The magnificent large organ of the church is by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. Throughout the year, day and night, the church schedules high-quality classical music concerts.

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