L'église de St-Marie-Madeleine

The Church

The construction of this church started in 1764 according to a design by architect Pierre Constant d'Ivry, similar to that of the Invalides church. When he died in 1777 his successor, Guillome-Martin Couture, started with a new design, based on the Panthéon. In 1806, Napoleon decided to build a temple in honor of his army on this place and he appointed Pierre-Alexandre Vignon who started with a new design again: a temple based on the 'Maison Carrée', an ancient Roman temple in the French city of Nîmes. With the construction of the Arc de Triomphe, which honored the French Army, the new temple was looking for a new function. After the fall of Napoleon King Louis XVIII determined that it would be used as a church dedicated to Mary Magdalene. The July Monarchy rededicated as a monument of national reconciliation, and the nave was vaulted in 1831. In 1837 it was briefly suggested that the building might best be utilized as a train station, but the building was finally consecrated as a church in 1842.
The Madeleine is built in the Neo-Classical style. 52 Corinthian columns surround the temple, each of them twenty meter high. The pediment sculpture of the Last Judgement is by Lemaire, and the church's bronze doors bear reliefs representing the Ten Commandments. The temple's facade acts as a great architectural counterbalance to the colonnaded facade of thePalais Bourbon across the river.
Inside, the church has a single nave with three domes over wide arched bays, lavishly gilded in a decor inspired as much by Roman baths as by Renaissance artists. At the rear of the church, above the high altar, stands a statue by Charles Marochetti depicting St Mary Magdalene being lifted up by angels which evokes the tradition concerning ectasy which she entered in her daily prayer while in seclusion. The half-dome above the altar is frescoed by Jules-Claude Ziegler, entitledThe History of Christianity, showing the key figures in the Christian religion with — a sign of its Second Empire date — Napoleon occupying centre stage.

The organ

This organ was built in 1845-1846 by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll and inaugurated by Louis-Nicolas Séjan and the organists of La Madeleine Fessy and Saint-Saëns. The buffet-style "Italian Renaissance" was designed by the architect Huvé. The instrument consisted of 48 stops over 4 keyboards and a pedal. Its free standing console was a novelty (for Cavaillé-Coll). The Voix Céleste was the first ever built worldwide.
During the past centuries, various modifications were realized, among which an electrification of the traction in 1971 and the addition of two chamades in 2002 (as already intended by Cavaillé-Coll in 1846). It has now 60 stops and still includes 95% of the original pipes of Cavaillé-Coll.

Main builder History Latest restauration
1846 - Aristide Cavaillé-Coll 1927 - Mutin
1957 - Roethinger--Boisseau
1971 - Danion-Gonzalez
1988/2002 - Dargassies
1988/2002 - Dargassies

IV/60 - elecrical action

Titulaire: François-Henri Houbart
Organiste suppléant: Jean-Louis Vieille-Girardet
Organiste de l'orgue d choeur: Michel Geoffroy
Famous organists in the past: Fessy, Lefébure-Wély, Saint-Saëns, Dubois, Fauré, Dallier, Mignan, Jeanne Demessieux, Odile Pierre.

Concerts: regularly
Masses with great organ: saturday 18.00, sunday 11.00, 12.30, 18.00
Mass with choir organ: sunday 09.30

François-Henri Houbart: Improvisation I

François-Henri Houbart: Improvisation II

François-Henri Houbart: Improvisation III