What Nobody Told You About The Sacré-Coeur, Paris

Visit The Sacre-Coeur, Montmartre Basilique du Sacré-Coeur

The Sacré-Coeur Paris is one of the most famous buildings in the French capital. It is located on the top of the hill of Montmartre, in the 18th Arrondissement.

The impressive Basilique du Sacré-Coeur (its name in French) was built between 1873 and 1924 and is dedicated to Christ’s Sacred Heart. Today, the Sacré-Coeur Basilica welcomes more than 10 million visitors annually, making it the second most visited religious building in France, only after Notre Dame Cathedral.

Is Sacre-Coeur worth visiting? For sure, it is not one of the locals’ favorite places in Paris, but it is an important site for the history of the City, plus it is free to visit. So if you are wandering around Montmartre and you have the chance to go, why not?

Go on reading for the most interesting facts about Sacré-Coeur, Paris.

Sacré Coeur - Montmartre

The Sacré-Coeur Montmartre is one of the top things to see in Paris. We recommend visiting the Basilica Sacré Coeur in the following Paris itineraries:

Sacré-Coeur Hours and Admission Conditions

The Sacré-Coeur Basilica is free to visit, open from 6.30 am to 10.45 pm. Guided visits inside Sacré-Coeur Paris are not allowed inside as a sign of respect for Christ and those who want to pray in peace.

It is possible to visit the Sacré-Coeur Dome from June to September, from 10.30 am to 8.30 am (paid visit). Currently, the Crypt is closed to visitors.

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The Sacré-Coeur Inside

Sacré Coeur Inside

The Sacré-Coeur Basilica is built in Romano-Byzantine style, with a design inspired by models such as Saint Sophia in Constantinople or San Marco in Venice or Ravenna.

The Sacré-Coeur architecture is in the shape of a Greek cross with four domes, and it measures 85 meters long and 35 meters in width. You will love the light and the details of this majestic place!

The Sacré-Coeur interior is magnificent. When you visit the Sacré-Coeur inside, you will see that all the light and architectural details draw attention to the choir, the place of liturgical celebrations, and the adoration of the Sacred Heart.

The Sacré-Coeur Dome has a height of 83 meters and is accessible by climbing 300 steps (no elevator here). The climb up to the Dome is one of the top things to do in Montmartre; the view from there is stunning! The access to the Dome is outside the Basilica, on the left.

The entrance to visit the Sacré-Coeur Crypt is also from the left side. This place has the same plan as the Basilica, and it is a real curiosity. An impressive statue of the Virgin is located in the central chapel called the Chapel of the Pietà. No less than 14 side chapels are also to be discovered.

Here, you will see the very first stone of the Basilica, tombs linked to characters who have marked the history of the place, and numerous statues.

Quirky and Interesting Facts About the Sacré-Coeur, Paris

In addition to its spectacular location and imposing architecture, here are some interesting facts about the Sacré-Coeur Paris.

1. It Started with a Vision

In 1870, the people of Paris were under siege after the defeat of Napoleon III against Sedan. The Parisians were starving to the point of killing the animals in the Ménagerie (the zoo in Paris) for food. After the defeat, the surrender of Napoleon III and the bloody episode of the Paris Commune followed, with more than 30,000 people killed.

Catholics saw these terrible events as a punishment from God. The faithful started to meet and organize huge processions, promising to erect a monument to the glory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Archbishop of Paris, Monsignor Guibert, sent a letter to the Minister of Worship asking him to support this project which would contribute to the divine protection of the French capital. For the protection to be effective and visible to all, the City decided to build the monument on a hill.

The decision on the Sacré-Coeur location was the result of a vision. It is said that in October 1872, the Archbishop of Paris had a vision while climbing the Montmartre steps and decided that there, “where the martyrs are” (this is the meaning of ‘Montmartre’) is where the Sacré-Coeur Basilica should be built.

Sacred-Heart of Paris

2. The Sacré-Coeur Location is Doubly Symbolic

The choice of the Sacré-Coeur location is doubly symbolic. Located on the top of the Butte of Montmartre, one of the highest points of Paris, the temple would thus be visible to all.

The other reason is political. It was indeed at the top of the Butte that the Paris Commune began in March 1871. This was a way for the Church to reaffirm its power and atone for sins …

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3. Druids, Romans … Also Prayed on this Site

Saint Denis Montmartre

The Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre was not the first sanctuary on this hill overlooking Paris. Thousands of years before, the Druids prayed there, and later in the 5th century, the Romans built a temple to Mars on the site of the current Saint-Pierre Church.

Montmartre (literally “mountain of martyrs”) was named after St. Denis (the patron saint of Paris), who was beheaded there with his companions Rustique and Éleuthère during Emperor Valerian’s prosecutions. But — martyr that he was — the loss of his head didn’t stop him! He simply picked it up and walked out of town.

4. The Construction of the Sacré Coeur in Montmartre was not Simple!

Construction of the Sacré-Coeur 1882

To decide on the choice of architect, a competition was organized under the chairmanship of Charles Garnier, the architect of the Opéra Garnier. He chose Paul Abadie, who proposed a building inspired by the great Mosque of Istanbul, Hagia Sophia.

Construction began in 1875. Soon, the workers realized the fragility of the soil of Montmartre, formed by quarries. Abadie had to consolidate these soils before considering the construction of the Basilica Sacré-Coeur.

5. Seven Architects were Necessary to Finish the Project

The first stone of the Sacré-Coeur Paris was laid on 16 June 1875, but the work only ended in 1924! Paul Abadie died in 1884 and was replaced by Honoré Daumet, who died in 1886. Death after death, architects followed one another … until 1923.

No less than seven architects participated in the construction of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, including Charles Garnier, who participated in the project as a consultant architect.

6. The Secret of Sacré-Coeur’s Eternal Youth

Sacré Coeur - Montmartre

Whilst most of the monuments of Paris tend to darken over time and are constantly subject to renovations, the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur is recognizable by its characteristic and unpolluted white color. How Montmartre’s symbol can stay so white?

The Sacré Coeur was built with the stone of Château-Landon (a town near Paris), also used to construct the Alexandre iii Bridge and the Arc de Triomphe. This stone has a very interesting characteristic: in contact with rainwater, the cullet, a thin protective layer that naturally coats the stone, secretes a white substance that hardens in the sun. Therefore, each rain is the occasion for the Basilica for a great cleaning!

7. The Sacré-Coeur Basilica was Financed by the Parisians

To carry out this expensive project, the City called for donations. The Parisians themselves financed the Sacré-Coeur Montmartre by buying 1 to 3 stones, the prices of which varied between 120 and 500 francs. You will find the names of the people who invested in the construction engraved all over the walls of the Church.

8. The Sacré-Coeur Paris is the Second Highest Point in the City

The Sacré-Coeur is the second-highest point of the City, right after the Eiffel Tower. This is because it was built on top of Montmartre Hill at a height of 130 meters.

To access the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, you first need to climb 270 steps, but at the end of the Sacré Coeur steps, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view of Paris. Fortunately, since 1901 the Sacré-Coeur funicular has provided easier access to the Basilica.

The Sacré-Coeur Dome and the Bell Tower are 91 meters tall, so the total height of the Sacré-Coeur is 221 meters above sea level. The Eiffel Tower is 300 meters tall, and the Montparnasse Tower, 210 meters tall, takes third place on this list.

9. There was a Stellar Fight on the Sacré-Coeur Steps…

The 270 steps to Sacré-Coeur Paris were featured in the climactic sequence in “John Wick: Chapter 4.” The climb of the Sacré-Coeur steps comes close to the end of the film and after a flurry of ingenious and relentless fights that feature John Wick (Keanu Reeves) running around Paris trying to avoid killers who want to collect the price that’s on his head.

John Wick needs to get to the Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre by sunrise to compete in a duel with an evil marquis (Bill Skarsgard) that will decide his fate. In the bravura action sequence, John Wick has to defeat a gantlet of enemies to reach the top of the Sacré-Coeur stairs. When it finally seems like he’s made it to the summit, he’s sent plummeting back to the bottom in full slapstick fashion and has to start from scratch while the clock is ticking.

Truth be told, these are not the steps that face the Sacré-Coeur because they didn’t look that terrifying to the director and his crew. The “Sacré-Coeur steps” used for the film are not far from the Basilica, on the left side.

10. The Basilica Sacré-Coeur Holds Two Records

With its colossal dimensions, we can imagine that the Sacré-Coeur Basilica must hold some records. But do you know which ones?

The Sacré-Coeur interior is dominated by a mosaic of 475 m2 which extends over the ceiling of the apse. This work representing the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ is the largest mosaic in France and one of the largest in the world.

The second record is that of the largest bell in France: 3 meters in diameter, 9.60 meters in outer circumference, and nearly 19 tonnes! Nicknamed La Savoyarde, its original name is Françoise Marguerite of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and its arrival in the Basilica required a team of 28 horses.

11. Since 1885, the Sacré-Coeur Paris Hosts an Uninterrupted Prayer

Since 1885, the faithful have taken turns day and night for uninterrupted prayer. Every evening, after the doors of the Basilica close at 10.30 pm, the prayer relay continues, ensured by persons registered for the night of adoration.

The participants are installed at the Ephrem Guest House, at the rear of the Basilica, in a dormitory or bedroom. They choose the time they want to pray (one hour or more) during the night, so a continuous relay of prayer is ensured.

12. From The Sacré-Coeur Dome, You Have One of the Best Views Of Paris

The panorama from the Sacré-Coeur Dome is one of the best views of Paris: Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Panthéon, the OpÉra Garnier, Tour Montparnasse, and the Centre Pompidou.

At 83 meters high, the Sacré-Coeur Dome was the highest point in Paris … until the construction of the Eiffel Tower.

To visit the Dome, the entrance is on the left side of the Sacré-Coeur, outside. It’s an authentic experience that comes after climbing 300 steps!

What to Do near the Sacré-Coeur, Montmartre?

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