Three false starts were made on building a church on this site. The first design, commissioned in 1757 with construction begun in 1764, was by Pierre Contant d'Ivry, and was based on Mansart's Late Baroque church of Les Invalides, with a dome surmounting a Latin cross. In 1777 d'Ivry died and he was replaced by Guillaume-Martin Couture, who decided to start anew, razing the incomplete construction and basing his new design on the Pantheon. At the start of the Revolution, only the foundations had been finished and work was discontinued, while debate simmered as to what purpose the building might serve in Revolutionary France: a library, a ballroom, and a marketplace were all suggested.
In 1806 Napoleon made his decision, commissioning Pierre-Alexandre Barthélémy Vignon (1763-1828) to build a Temple de la Gloire de la Grande Armée (Temple to the Glory of the Great Army), with Vignon basing his design on an antique temple. The then-existing foundations were razed and work begun anew. With completion of the Arc de Triomphe in 1808, the original commemorative role for the temple was blunted. After the fall of Napoleon, with the Catholic reaction during the Restoration, King Louis XVIII determined that the structure would be used as a church. Vignon died in 1828 before completing the project and was replaced by Jacques-Marie Huvé. 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.
It is a touchstone of Neo-Classical architecture and was inspired by the Maison Carrée at Nimes, the best-preserved of all Roman temples. The Corinthian columns (20 meters high) of the porticos of both buildings are carried round their entire exterior. The Madeleine is affiliated with a Benedictine abbey, and masses and the most fashionable weddings in Paris are still celebrated here. It was consecrated to Mary Magdalene, and inside the Renaissance-inspired decor is lavishly gilded.