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What Nobody Told You About The Sacré-Coeur, Montmartre


2021 France Travel Update


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Visit The Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre Basilica of the Sacred Heart

The Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre is one of the main landmarks in Paris. It is located on the top of the hill of Montmartre, in the 18th Arrondissement.

The impressive Sacré-Coeur Basilica was built between 1873 and 1924, and it is dedicated to Christ’s Sacred Heart. Today, the Sacré-Coeur welcomes more than 10 million visitors per year, making it the second most visited religious building in France, only after Notre Dame.

Sacré Coeur - Montmartre

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

Sacré-Coeur Hours and Admission Conditions

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

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

Also in Montmartre

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!

All the light and architectural details draw attention to the choir, place of liturgical celebrations, and adoration of the Sacred Heart.

The Dome has a height of 83 meters, and it 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 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, Montmartre

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. In order for the protection to be effective and visible to all, the City decided to build the monument on a hill.

In October 1872, the Archbishop of Paris was said to have 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. A way for the Church to reaffirm its power and to atone for sins …

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3. Druids, Romans … also Prayed on this Site

Saint Denis Montmartre

The  Sacré-Coeur 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 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 formed by the quarries. Abadie had to consolidate these soils before considering the construction of the Basilica.

5. Seven Architects were Necessary to Finish the Project

The first stone of the Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre was laid on 16 June 1875, but the work 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 took part in the construction of the Sacré-Coeur, 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 Sacré-Coeur Basilica 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, also used to build Alexandre iii Bridge and 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 of a great cleaning!

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

To carry out this expensive project, the City called for donations. The Parisians themselves financed the Basilica Sacré-Coeur 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 is the Second Highest Point of the City

The Sacre-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 the height of 130 meters.

Both the 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.

To access the Sacré-Coeur, you first have to climb 237 steps, but you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Paris at the end of the climb. Fortunately, since 1901 the Sacré-Coeur funicular provides easier access to the Basilica.

9. The Sacré-Coeur Basilica Holds Two Records

With its colossal dimensions, we can imagine that the Sacré-Coeur 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 which represents 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.

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

Since 1885, the faithful have taken turns day and night for uninterrupted prayer. Every evening, after the doors 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 during the night.

11. From The Sacré-Coeur You Have One of the Best Views Of Paris

The panorama from the Dome is one of the best views of Paris! At 83 meters high, the Sacré-Coeur’s 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?

  • Place du Tertre
  • Musée de Montmartre
  • Musée Dalí
  • Moulin Rouge Cabaret
  • The Love Wall

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