Architectural Buildings of the World: La Madeleine

The facade of La Madeleine, Paris.
The facade of La Madeleine, Paris.

La Madeleine is a massive Catholic Church building and it is one of the prominent landmarks in Paris, France. Despite its troubled start, La Madeleine stands out as an impressive monument in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. It is located at the Place de la Madeleine, near the Palais Garnier and the Place de la Concorde. The building resembles a Greek temple from the outside rather than a church.

Description And History

The ground on which La Madeleine stands was once occupied by a synagogue. In 1182, Bishop Maurice de Sully forcefully took the property from Jews and converted the structure into a church. After many years of existence, attempts were made to construct a church at the location where the synagogue stood. Architect Pierre Contant d'Ivry made the first attempt in 1757 by designing the church in style similar to the church of Les Invalides. Construction began on 1764 and went on until 1777 when Pierre died. Guillaume-Martin Couture took over construction from where Pierre left. He demolished the incomplete structure and started construction based on a new design. The new design had a shorter nave and was more centralized. When the French revolution began in 1789, construction of the church was halted. The unfinished building was brought down and in 1806, Napoleon ordered the construction a Temple. The temple was built in honor of French soldiers who fought in the Napoleon war. Pierre-Alexandre was appointed to design the Temple. King Louis XVIII who succeeded Napoleon converted the Temple into a church.


La Madeleine is a church is unique in design and lacks the usual symbols of a church such as a cross on its roof. From the outside it resembles a Temple and the inside looks like an ancient Cathedral. The Church has 52 impressive columns which stand at the height of 20 meters each. Its enormous bronze doors add to the magnificence of Monument. La Madeleine is home to one of the best pipe organ in Paris. The church host Classical music concerts regularly.


La Madeleine is a popular spot with Christian pilgrims. The visitors partake in the religious activities conducted at the Church every day. Historians and Archeologists visit the church to learn about French history. Its upmarket location attracts wealthy visitors who come to shop in the nearby shops. The Church has a restaurant in its foyer where guests enjoy meals at a subsidized fee. Classical music lovers also flock La Madeleine during the regular music concert at the Church

Significant Events At La Madeleine

In 1837, a suggestion was made to convert La Madeleine into a Railway Station. However, the plan was ruled out and in 1842 La Madeleine was made into a Church. In 1849, Frederic Chopin’s funeral at La Madeleine was delayed for two weeks due to Chopin’s unusual request. His request was for the choir to sing a Mozart song at his funeral. The song was mainly sung by female voices which were not permitted at La Madeleine at the time. Nonetheless, adjustments had to be made for the song to be sung at the funeral. On May 24th, 1871, the Church’s curé, the Archbishop of Paris and four other hostages were executed by the French government during the period of Paris commune when the troops recaptured the city.

Threats And Conservation Efforts At La Madeleine

La Madeleine receives millions of visitors annually and high human traffic around the Church leads to wear and tear of the structures. However, the Archdiocese of Paris makes every effort to preserve the structures at the Church. Regular repairs are conducted to prevent damage to the church.


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