The basilica
of the Sacred-Heart

The Basilica of the Sacred-Heart (Basilique du Sacré-Cœur) is a Roman Catholic church and a popular landmark in Paris. The Basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre (Montmartre butte), the highest point in the city, of which it is the symbol. The top of the dome is open to tourists and affords a spectacular panoramic view of Paris.


From the earliest days, Montmartre has been a place of worship. The name signifies "mount of martyrs" because by tradition it is the place of the martyrdom of Saint Denis, the first bishop of Paris (late 3rd century) and his companions. A big Benedictine Abbey occupied the whole hill until the French Revolution at which date the nuns were guillotined and the Abbey destroyed.
In 1870, war broke out between France and Germany. The Council taking place at the Vatican broke up and the Pope, no longer protected by French troops, felt himself to be a prisoner in the Vatican City. France faced military defeat and occupation of part of the country by German troops. The response of MM. Alexandre Legentil and Hubert Rohault de Fleury was spiritual. They vowed to build a church consecrated to the Heart of Christ in reparation (in penitence for sins committed) since for them, the misery of France stemmed more from spiritual than from political causes. In 1872, Cardinal Guibert, archbishop of Paris, approves this vow and chooses Montmartre and in 1873, he obtains a parliamentary declaration of the public utility of the Basilica, thus enabling the land to be used to built the church.
Architect Paul Abadie designed the Basilica after winning a competition over 77 other architects, but he died not long after the foundation had been laid, in 1884, and other architects continued with the work. The overall style of the structure shows heavy Romano-Byzantine influence. Many design elements of the Basilica are based on nationalistic themes : the portico, with its three arches, is adorned by two equestrian statues of French national saints Joan of Arc and King Saint Louis; and the nineteen-ton Savoyarde bell (one of the world's heaviest), cast in 1895 in Annecy, alludes to the annexation of Savoy in 1860.
Sacré-Cœur is built of travertine stone quarried in Château-Landon. This stone constantly exudes calcite which ensures that the Basilica remains white even with weathering and pollution.
A mosaic in the apse, entitled Christ in Majesty, is among the world's largest.


The laying of the foundation stone in 1884 was closely associated with the founding of the Third French Republic, the constitution of which was adopted the same year. The Basilica was controversial in that it was built “to expiate the crimes of the Communards” as some people at the time put it. It was also seen as a memorial to the many French citizens who lost their lives in the Paris Commune (1871) and the Franco-Prussian War.
The stained glass of the Basilica was destroyed by German bombardment during the World War II and was restored after the war ended.
The area before the Basilica has featured in many films, notably in 2001 movie Amélie.
LINK : The Scred-Heart Basilica