One of Elizabeth's favorite Paris traditions is taking in a performance of Mozart's Requiem some quiet evening. Many such classical performances occur throughout the year across the city, but one of the loveliest is in the acoustic halls of La Madeleine, the classical Greek-temple-style church just off of Place de la Concorde and the Champs-Élysées.
With its close proximity to the central Place de la Concorde, La Madeleine—dedicated to Mary Magdalene—is one of the better-known "lesser" cathedrals of Paris.
Begun in 1764, the cathedral's builders soldiered on even in the face of the original architect's death and the French Revolution, which pretty much insured it would not be used as a church for quite a while.
No one was quite sure what to do with it (for a while, it was discussed as a potential legislative or civil building), but Napoléon, as he was wont to do during his reign in the early 19th century, saw a great opportunity to showcase himself, and had the building redesigned from the ground up as a Romantic vision of a Greek temple and dedicated it as a temple to himself and his grand army, replete with the same sort of grandiose arches that he favored in other self-themed monuments like the Arc de Triomphe.
By the time it was finished, Napoléon's reign had ended, and his royal successors decided to make it a true church once again.
The square surrounding the church is a gourmand's paradise, with numerous specialty shops dedicated to one obscure food-related product or another, from honey to caviar.
As with many of the grand stone-and-marble monuments in Paris, the exterior of the church is decorated with a host of intricate carvings and sculptures...
...as is the interior, with numerous statues lining the hall.
A memorial plaque just inside the entrance commemorates the numerous priests and clerics "dead for France" on the battlefields of World War I.
The massive organ dominates the space above the entrance (seems like a cruel joke, always making unsuspecting tourists stroll under a three-ton organ...sounds like a Wile E. Coyote script to me).
Fittingly, Charles Marochetti's sculpture of Mary Magdalene Ascending to Heaven dominates the space behind the altar.
As with all other churches in Paris, Mark loves the little side pulpits.
Being a classical concert, tickets are reasonably priced...
...but it's often advisable to get there early anyway, to snag a good seat somewhere within your general seating zone.
This time, we were lucky (or well-planned, take your pick), and got to sit pretty close to the front.
We saw this antique car parked on the plaza out front before the concert. No idea why it was there. The choir's conductor, maybe. Weird.
The Other Paris