Monuments off the Beaten Path – Église de la Madeleine

Guest post by Jenny Bailey

Église de la Madeleine, by flickr user Christina

Following on from Part I of monuments off the beaten path, I took a look at another attraction that is less known by most tourists staying in Paris hotels. Dedicated to St Mary Magdalene, L’Église de la Madeleine is a Roman Catholic Church that occupies a commanding position in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. Designed as a temple to the glory of Napoleon’s army, this impressive structure attracts around 600,000 visitors every year.
La Madeleine – as it is most commonly known – is built in a Neo-Classical style with fifty-two Corinthian columns, each 20 metres high, which can be seen around the whole building. The real delights of this building can be seen inside the church though, as the décor is inspired as much by Roman baths as it is by Renaissance artists. At the back of the church stands a statue by Charles Marochetti that depicts St Mary Magdalene being lifted up by angels, which is truly beautiful.
Commissioned in 1757, the first design of the church was by Pierre Contant d’Ivry, with construction beginning in 1764. In 1777 d’Ivry died however, and new designer Guillaume-Martin Couture, decided to start from scratch. He demolished the incomplete construction, basing his new design on the Roman Pantheon.
In 1806 Napoleon made his decision to create a Temple de la Gloire de la Grande Armée (Temple to the Glory of the Great Army) based on the design of an antique temple, so work began once again. After the fall of Napoleon, King Louis XVIII determined that the structure would be used as a church.
Today, masses and other religious services are celebrated daily in the church, as well as funerals and fashionable weddings. In the basement of the church, visitors will find the Foyer de la Madeleine, which is home to a restaurant, open at lunch times from Monday to Friday. The walls of the Foyer are often decorated by French artists and many locals pay a yearly subscription fee of 3 Euros to be able to enjoy a three course meal under the vaulted ceilings.
With many popular hotels nearby, a couple of hours spent perusing this wonderful construction is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon and is also located near one of the most prestigious shoppping quarters of Paris, the rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré.  Before hitting the boutiques, tourists will be able to marvel at the stunning architecture as they discover another of the lesser frequented monuments in the capital. It

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