La Madeleine Paris Monuments to Woman

Named after the symbol of France that is embodied in a French woman, this monument is another dedication to the victories of Napoleon. His fervour to build arcs, buildings and monuments to his achievements knew no bounds and this is an impressive example of such fervour.

Hotels in Madeleine District of Paris


La Madeleine

Louis XV, the grandson of Louis XIV, decided to build a church at the end of the Rue Royale, but it would not be without problems, because it seemed that Fate was now conspiring against an aging and bankrupt French monarchy. His reign began in 1715 and lasted until 1774, but it was only until 1743 that he took on the full responsibilities of an absolute monarch. In 1764, he commissioned Constant d'Ivry to build a church on the model of the St Louis des Invalides, but bad weather, poor materials and technical incompetence destroyed what had been built.

Picture of La Madeleine. A manificent monument in Paris

Upon his death, his grandson succeeded him as Louis XVI. He turned his attention back to the project in 1777 asking Couture to build a church on the model of the Pantheon. Unfortunately, his unwillingness to support financial and social reform led to a growing unpopularity and then to the French Revolution forcing the project to be suspended between 1790 and 1806. The Revolutionary government then dreamt up impossible rational uses for it, but it took Napoleon to cut through all this chatter and decisively choose to build a monument commemorating his army. He selected Barthelemy Vignon to design it.

Unsurprisingly, Fate had a few more twists to throw in. At the same time, Napoleon was building the Arc de Triomphe and would move his attention to this monument as the piece to commemorate his army and victories. Therefore, the question was what to do with La Madeleine. It was finally completed in 1814 when its Corinthian columns were erected, but Napoleon would not have the honour of answering that question, because he was forced to abdicate in April 1814. Louis XVI's brother was crowned as Louis XVIII and confirmed that La Madeleine would be a church.

A slight perspective on the church gives you a view of the pillars

A smaller revolution overthrew Charles X, brother of Louis XVIII in 1830 and Louis Philippe came to the throne. In 1837, as decisions were being made as to what place in Paris would became the first Gare (Train Station), La Madeleine was first on the list, but in 1842, it was ultimately decided that la Madeleine would be and remain a church. Consecration as such soon followed.

With such a broken history, it is not surprising that one can see this history reflected in the architecture. It stands out from everything around it. The Corinthian columns are over 20 metres high of which the bases themselves are 4 metres. One is offered a view on the Place de la Concorde. The facade is deliberately in perfect harmony with the Palais Bourbon or National Assembly directly opposite on the other side of the Seine. There are no windows, possibly to make the viewer focus on the wholeness of the building.

Upon entering, one is faced with the possibility that the exterior is an almost exact opposite of the interior, which appears to be full, maybe too much. There are frescoes celebrating Christian heroes, among who, shockingly, is Napoleon. The pediment represents the Last Judgement. The great organ was designed and built by Cavaille-Coll.

Nearby, you can find a flower market or gourmet restaurants and if you need to go to bathroom, well the toilets are pieces of art themselves as they have been carefully designed and directly placed on the corner of the Boulevard de la Madeleine.