Eglise de la Madeleine Paris

Eglise de la Madeleine is a church in Paris, build by Napoleon for his “Grande Armée” (originally as a temple), with a design derived from classic Greek and ancient Roman temples.

La Madeleine church, L’église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine in French, is a Roman Catholic church…

…which Napoleon ordered to be built in 1806, originally, however, as a temple to honor his 600,000 strong (at its peak) “Grande Armée”.

The church is centrally located in Paris, a short walk from…

  • Place de la Concorde,
  • Place Vendôme,
  • Paris Opera, and
  • the Church of Saint-Augustin.

The church acts as a monumental “point-de-vue” endpoint…to a route starting from La Madeleine via Rue Royal to the Place de la Concorde (with Palais Bourbon being the other visual bookend).

Eglise de la Madeleine Paris France

PHOTO: La Madeleine church, as seen from Rue Royal.

Eglise de la Madeleine bas-relief Paris France

PHOTO: A closeup of the artwork above the entrance to the church: a bas-relief by Philippe Joseph Henri Lemaire, titled “Le Jugement Dernier” (“The Judgment Day“), from 1833.

La Madeleine church Paris France

PHOTO: La Madeleine architecture was inspired by many buildings, including Maison Carrée (ée) temple in Nîmes. The view is from the entrance to the La Pinacothèque de Paris, at 28, place de la Madeleine.

Even before the building of La Madeleine church in 1806-1842, the location had been a significant religious place…

…starting with the event, when Bishop Maurice de Sully dedicated the former synagogue that was here to Virgin Mary, in 1182.

The first attempt at a monumental church took place in 1757, with a plan inspired by Pierre Contant d’Ivry’s Les Invalides church on the other side of Seine river.

However, after just one year of work, plans to build the new church were abandoned.

When Contant d’Ivry died, in 1777, Guillaume-Martin Couture decided to demolish what had been already build…and restart the church project with a new plan, now based on the Pantheon temple in Rome, Italy.

This time, construction work, which had finished foundations and the grand portico section, was halted by the events of the French Revolution (from 1789).

This unfinished church was also torn down, this time (in 1806) by Napoleon, to make way for the construction of a monumental temple, dedicated to his Grande Armée.

In Napoleon’s plans, La Madeleine was dedicated to the soldiers that took part in…

  • the battles at Ulm,
  • Austerlitz, and
  • Jena,

…as a Hall of Fame building, officially as “Temple de la Gloire de la Grande Armée“, done similarly to Bavarian Walhalla memorial.

In the ensuing architecture competition, Napoleon personally chose the winner, Pierre-Alexandre Barthélémy Vignon, with a plan based on ancient temples and classical memorials.

However, as the Arc de Triomphe was completed in 1808, the need for another military memorial disappeared, and the construction work (which had commenced in 1806) on the temple slowed down.

After Napoleon, King Louis XVIII set his mind in using the magnificent building as a church dedicated to Virgin Mary, in honor of the first church at the location.

During the preceding years to being completely finished, the building was first considered to be used as a railway station (in 1837)…which would have made it the first train station in Paris.

However, instead, the building opened its doors, in the year of its full completion (1842), as a church.

The architectural highlights of neoclassical Eglise de la Madeleine include its 52 Corinthian columns, each being 20 meters in height.

The artwork above the church entrance, “The Judgment Day“, is by Philippe- Henri Lemaire. Also, when you enter the church, notice the artwork on the bronze doors, titled “Ten Commandments“.

Inside the church, some of the notable highlights you’ll find include…

  • a sculpture above the altar (by Charles Marochetti), depicting Virgin Mary, carried by two angels, and
  • frescoes (also above the altar) by Jules-Claude Ziegler, titled “The History of Christianity” — a look at some of the key personalities from the history of Christian faith (with Napoleon, however, being located at the center of the piece).

Today, La Madeleine is a Catholic Benedictine monastery church, where religious masses and the most fashionable Paris weddings take place.