I have thus given the reader a sketch of the most gorgeous church in Paris, that he may get an idea of the style of religion which obtains at present there. It is like this church. It is pretentious, imposing, in bad taste, without simplicity and a real sanctity. I was disgusted with the Madeleine from the moment I knew it to be a church. At first I saw it only as a fine building—an imitation of the Parthenon—and I was struck with admiration. But when I was told that it was a temple for the warship of God, I was shocked, and still more so when I entered it. The interior, as a collection of fine paintings and statues, as a specimen of gorgeous Gothic architecture, is one of the best in the world; but I would as soon think of attending public worship amid the nakedness of the Louvre, as in the Madeleine. Had Napoleon’s idea been carried out, and this modern Parthenon been dedicated to Mars, it would adorn Paris, and add much to the pleasure of the stranger; but as it is now, it only serves to illustrate one of the weak points in the French character.
The genuine Parisian is so fond of appearance, that he cares little for the substance. The churches of Paris, therefore, abound with all that can impress the eye, however repugnant to a refined taste. For I dare to hold, that the French love not the true refinement in matters of religion. Having little vital piety, it is impossible for them to judge of church architecture. Solemn old St. Paul’s in London, will always linger in my memory as a fit temple of the living God. Its impressive grandeur contrasts strongly with the rich magnificence of the Madeleine. The latter inspires only admiration, as the figure of a Greek warrior, but St. Paul’s inspires awe; and that is just the difference between them.
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The interior of this chapel is one of the most beautiful in Paris. It was the scene of the death of the duke of Orleans in 1842. He left Paris in the forenoon of the 13th of July, in an open carriage, with but one postillion, intending to call upon the royal family at Neuilly, and proceed to the camp at St. Omer. As he approached Porte Maillot, the horses became frightened. The driver began to lose his control of the horses.
“Are you master of your horses?” asked the duke.
“Sir, I guide them,” was the reply.
“I am afraid you cannot hold them,” again cried the duke.
“I cannot, sir,” was the reply.
The duke then endeavored to get out of the carriage, but his feet became entangled in his cloak, and he was thrown with great force to the ground, his head striking first. It was dreadfully fractured, and he was carried into the house of a grocer near at hand, where he expired at four o’clock the same day, entirely unconscious. The royal family were with him when he died. The house with the adjacent property was bought, and two distinguished architects were commanded to erect a commemorative chapel on the place. In July, 1843, it was consecrated by the archbishop, in the presence of the royal family.