Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Gaires2359 on November 17, 2004

Personally, I find this to be more charming than Notre Dame, and every time I'm in Paris, I take a pilgrimage up the slopes of Montmartre.

A Romano-Byzantine church completed in 1914, it has quite a few treasures, including Eugène Benet's figure of Chirst.

At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, two Catholic businessmen made a private religious vow-that should France be spared the Prussian onslaught, they’d build a church and dedicate it to the Sacred Heart of Christ. The two men, Alexandre Legentil and Rohault de Fleury, lived to see Paris saved from invasion despite the war and a lengthy siege, and the beginnings of the Sacré-Coeur basilica project. Inspired by the church of St. Front in Périgueux, work began in 1875. Although completed in 1914, the German invasion forestalled its consecration until 1919.

Started by Paul Abadie, chief architect and designer,it took two other architects to complete it, 40 years after initiation. Construction was fraught with problems, starting with its foundations, which had to be dug deeper than anticipated because of the quarries under the hill-cost increased, work was delayed. Eighty-three pillars, 16 feet thick and standing on stone shafts, were driven into the hill to support the walls and columns. Because of this, it has been claimed that the basilica is the one that holds up the hill, not the other way around!

The facade is best viewed from the gardens that spread out below the church. One distinct feature is its ovoid dome, which is the second highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower. It boasts pristine white turrets and an 83m tall bell tower containing one of the world’s heaviest bells, the Savoyarde, weighing in at an enormous 18.5 tonnes with an 850 kilogram clapper. Relief sculptures adorn the bronze doors in the portico entrance, illustrating scenes from Christ’s life, such as the Last Supper. Above this main entrance, facing Place du Parvis du Sacré-Coeur, is the basilica’s most important statue, that of Christ, symbolically placed above two bronze saints by H Lefèbvre, one of whom is Joan of Arc, the other is Saint Louis.

Inside, Luc-Olivier Merson’s colossal mosaic of Christ dominates the chancel vault. Alongside the Virgin, the pope, and the saints of France, the mosaic depicts the Parisian cardinals, bishops, and the project’s initiators. A chapel in the basilica’s crypt also contains Legentil’s heart in a stone urn. The dome’s inner stone structure has a stained-glass gallery, with views of the whole interior; a climb up its spiral staircase offers a dizzying view of the square outside.

The best time to visit the Sacred Heart is either at sunrise or sunset. The basilica is not a parish church, but a place of pilgrimage, drawing Catholics from the world over. A continuous service is held here, manned at night by delegates from the Parisian parishes. It is open daily from 6:45am to 11pm. There is an admission charge for the dome and crypt.

Basilica du Sacre Coeur
35, Rue Du Chevalier-de-la-barre Rue De La Bonne
Paris, France, 75018
+33 (1) 53 41 89 00

© LP 2000-2009