La Madelaine: A History


La Madelaine: A Confusing Church

La Madelaine is a beautiful church that stands in the heart of one the most beautiful and important parts of Paris. It is just north of Place de la Concorde and west of Place Vendome. Did I mention all the shopping in the area? And it's not your every day shopping, this is Dior, Cartier, Gucci, to name a few. So what's the story behind this church that stands in the middle of this fashionable area?

A church for Mary Magdalene

The original church was built for Mary Magdalene. The building started out as a synagogue but the king seized it and turned it into a church. When the church was demolished, it took years to build a new one. Eventually in the mid 1800s, it was decided to be dedicated, once again, to Mary Magdalene, hence the name "La Madelaine."

It looks Roman

After the architect died, a new one replaced him and his idea. The new idea was to make it look like the Roman Pantheon. But with all the halts in construction and the changes in architects, the original designs never came out the way they intended. So today, La Madelaine is a mixture of everything, but most heavily influenced by the Roman design.

The garden in front of La Madelaine

It was still in construction during the French Revolution

During the French Revolution, many buildings became available to the public and changed in purpose. Versailles almost became a museum, the Louvre became a public place, and La Madelaine was still undecided. Should it be a library? A train station? A marketplace? Because the building wasn't finished, they had so many options, but they never acted on it.

It held the remains of Louis XIV

After the king was publicly beheaded, he and his wife were laid to rest at the site of the old Madelaine. He and Marie Antoinette stayed there for a few years until being moved to St. Denis, where almost all the kings are buried.

Napoleon wanted to dedicate it to the army

Napoleon had a thing for buildings dedicated to the army. He loved his army, that's for sure. So he wanted the Madelaine to be a Temple for the Glory of the Great Army. That plan never worked out after he lost power, and in the end, the Madelaine became a church dedicated to Mary Magdalene, just like it's intentions.

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