As you peer up the rue Royale from the place de la Concorde, you’ll see something that very closely resembles a Roman temple. Whe the first stone was laid in 1763, it was destined to be a church with a neoclassical facade. But then the architect died, and then the Revolution broke out, and construction ground to a halt. No one knew what to do with the site until Napoléon finally strode onto the scene and declared that it would become the Temple de La Gloire, to honor the glorious victories of his army. He wanted something “solid” because he was sure that the monument would last “thousands of years.” Unfortunately for him, military defeats and mounting debt would again delay construction until Napoléon decided that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to make it a church after all—that way Rome would foot the bill. Once Napoléon was out of the picture for good, inertia sunk in again. It wasn’t until 1842, under the Restoration, that La Madeleine was finally consecrated.

The inside of the church is pretty dark, due to a lack of windows, but there are some interesting works of art here, if you can make them out in the gloom. On the left as you enter is François Rude’s “Baptism of Christ”; farther on is James Pradier’s sculpture “La Marriage de la Vierge.”