About the Sacre Coeur - The Basilica of the Sacred HeartEver since the Romans days, Montmartre, which is now a lively entertainment area, is associated with worship. The Gallic Druids saw it as a sacred site and the Romans built there temples dedicated to Mars and Mercury. In the 19th century, during the difficult war between France and Prussia, when Paris was in one of the lowest moments in its history, when the siege and hunger were unbearable, two of the city's residents vowed that if Paris were saved from the German blockade, they would set up a church on the top of the holy hill - dedicated to the holy heart of Jesus. This is also the reason basilica is called the "national vow."
The construction of the Church in question, Sacred Heart Basilica (Sacre-Coeur Basilica) was the responsibility of Paul Abadi, who won the competition for its construction. The church was built in direct partnership with the government of the Third Republic and was funded by France as part of a national fund. The construction was completed at the beginning of the twentieth century, but because of World War 1 it was not officially inaugurated until 1919.
The church's impressive dome is the second highest point in Paris. To get to its famous balcony you must climb many stairs or ride a cable car. But despite the effort, the climb is worth it.
The Architecture of the Sacre-CoeurThe Sacre-Coeur Church, which is large and impressive, is seen by many as a huge wedding cake. It was built in a Byzantine-Romanesque style. The basilica was constructed from travertine, which contains a material that ensures that the structure will remain white, will not be affected by the weather and will be noticeable from many points in the city. The basilica has 4 domes, the main one being 80 meters high. It includes a large number of windows that bring lots of natural light into entirety of the church.
The main hall is 100 meters long and 50 meters wide.
The entrance of the basilica is especially impressive. Above the main entrance there are two guards, two horsemen, who are religious and national symbols of France - Joan of Arc and Louis Lepre.
Inside the church, in the choir area, is a huge mosaic describing Jesus and the Sacred heart. On his left side stand Michael and the Virgin from Orleans and on the right, King Louis the 16th and his family. The interior of the basilica is built in the shape of a Greek cross and is decorated with amazing mosaics, which are located on the roof of the apse, the semicircular niche on the eastern wall of the classical basilicas. The largest mosaic in France is located there, covering 475 square meters.
Detective exercise: Try to find the decorated mosaic of the Star of David in the basilica.
Other unique points in the church include France's largest bell and one of the largest in the world (18.5 tons). The bell is located in the square tower. The church also has a very impressive organ, which sounds great.
Religion and Tourism in the BasilicaThe basilica was built in 1870, after the hard war between the Franks and the Prussians. After France's defeat in the war, the political upheavals from within and from the outside drove the nation into a terrible depression. Groups of Catholic believers fed up with the atheist spirit of France set themselves the goal of building a spectacular church on Montmartre Hill, which would be a symbol of renewed hope and repentance.
Despite the declaration of construction as a "public benefit" taking place in 1873, the construction itself only began three years later, and out of the 78 plans submitted to the committee, the one chosen belonged to architect Paul Abadi. The construction wasn't fast enough, was filled with problems and difficulties that caused the whole project to be delayed.
In 1919 the church was opened to the faithful, that saw it as a place of religious and patriotic identification as one.
The church is a focal point for many tourist till this day, especially in the spring and summer months. These tourists sit on the wide stairs leading to the church and use them to view the magnificent view of Paris, that opens in front of them from the hilltops.
Joan of ArcAt the entrance of the basilica stands a statue of Jean d'Arc, the French general who was executed when she was only 19 years old. Jean d'Arc was the one who led the resistance for the liberation of France from the English occupation during the Hundred Years War, in the 15th century. In a heroic struggle she led the French army to war against mighty England.
The devout Catholic girl was hearing voices in her head since her childhood. In order to convince her that she, a villager, has been chosen by God to lead France, she came for a meeting with King Charles, went straight to his room, and in a series of quick tests proved her supernormal abilities and "her connection with God." King Charles gave her the army and in a series of brilliant battles, dressed in male clothing, she broke the blockade on the city of Orleans and brought about the surrender of the English. She conquered the city Reims and formally crowned Charles as the rightful king of France, also under the law.
The young maiden proved to be a brilliant general when she realized that the English were always victorious because of the great battles they fight. Therefore, she replaced the French army's poor war tactics with superior guerilla warfare tactics and repeatedly defeated the British with her soldiers. However, after being injured 3 times, she was captured and sent to the English. After a long trial conducted by the church she was declared guilty of witchcraft, of connections with Satan, and of other offenses.
Jean d'Arc was sentenced to death by fire. Legend has it that an English soldier who was present at the execution cried in horror, "Oh the holiness we burned!"
In 1456, a couple years after the execution, a retrial was made for Jean d'Arc. The verdict of the trial was a total acquittal and "Miss Orleans" became an official national heroin of France. In 1920, the Catholic Church also declared her as a saint and finally recognized the greatness of the young girl.
About the BasilicaThe Basilica of Sacramento was built at the end of the 19th century in an attempt to atone for the sins of France, which led, according to popular belief, to the defeat of the French against the Prussians in 1871.
Because of the style of the basilica, a combination of Neo-Romanesque influences with neo-Byzantine elements, not many Parisians will say that the structure is refined and beautiful in their eyes. However, over the years the basilica became wanted and popular sight in the French capital skyline.
If you stand in front of the church, you will see the whole center of paris spread in front of you. On a bright day you can even notice statues and other points of interest in the city. You will probably find the Montparnasse Tower with it's 56 floors, that much before its establishment, bohemien and avant-garde people would walk there in the Montparnasse district. They did so after abandoning Montmartre, in the post-World War I period.
If you agree to climb more that 230 stairs to the dome of Sacre Coeur, you get to enjoy a spectacular view. You may buy the entry tickets to the dome in the entrance to the chapel.
A staircase leads from the basilica to the bottom of the hill. You can also go down through a Funicular - a tiny cable train.