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Église de la Madeleine

The church of La Madeleine is located north of Place de la Concorde and is one of the famous landmarks in Paris. More than 600,000 visitors annually ascend the wide staircase leading to the shrine where the venerated relics of Saint Mary Magdalene , the repentant sinner, the first witness of the resurrection of the Lord, to whom is entrusted the mission to proclaim the Gospel to the apostles New.
Cathedral Address: Pl de la Madeleine, Paris France
Area: Opéra
Arrondissement: 8th
Opening times: 9.30am-7pm daily
Transport: M° (Metro) - Madeleine (M8, M12, M14)
Entry Cost: Free of charge

History of Église de la Madeleine

The construction of La Madeleine began in 1764 during the reign of Louis XV, and 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. Both of the designs were not accepted and work stopped between 1790 and 1806.

Napoléon then decided that a Temple of Glory to his Grande Armée should be built, and Pierre-Alexandre Vignon was authorized 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 nearly selected to be the first railway station of Paris. Finally, in 1842 it was consecrated as a church.

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

Inside, a theatrical stone sculpture of "Ascention of Sainte Marie Madeline" built in 1837, being swept up to heaven by two angels, executed by Charles Marochetti (1805-67), 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; 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 dull and gloomy, heavy with gilt-edged marble.