Sacre Coeur. Church in Paris, France

Sacre Coeur

Church in Paris, France

Le Sacré coeur à Montmartre Photo © Martine

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Sacre Coeur

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	basilique du Sacré-Coeur au crépuscule (Paris) - Sacre Coeur
La basilique du Sacré-Coeur au crépuscule (Paris) - Sacre Coeur. Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
The Sacré Coeur Basilica, also known as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart or just as Sacré Coeur, is a huge Roman Catholic church in a Roman-Byzantine style in the district of Montmartre in Paris. It is located at the summit of a hill, which is the highest point in the whole city, and offers spectacular views. It is a major landmark and has both a political and cultural purpose.

The district of Montmartre – Mount of Martyrs – has always been the progressive part of Paris, home to many artists, rebels, and free spirits. It has also always been a place of worship; from the druids of Gaul (Wikipedia
	Article) to the Romans and their temples and 12th-century Church of Saint Peter. The area, however, was still a small village when the new basilica was built in 1873.


The inspiration for a new religious building came from the defeat of the French troops in the Franco-Prussian War (Wikipedia Article). In 1870, Bishop Fournier gave a speech declaring that the defeat of France was due to a decline of morality since the French Revolution. The wish to build a new place of worship dedicated to the Sacred Heart became stronger, as France’s misfortunes had been considered to have spiritual causes rather than political ones.

Montmartre was chosen as the site of the new church in 1872. Dedicated to the Sacred Heart instead of the Virgin Mary, the Sacré Coeur Cathedral contrasted strongly with other basilicas that were being built at the time, most of them called Notre-Dame. Construction started in 1876 with Paul Abadie as the leading architect. When he died in 1884, he was succeeded by Lucien Magne who added a clock tower to the building.

The basilica was not finished until 1914 and officially dedicated in 1919, after the First World War had ended. The cost of the enormous building was estimated to be about 7 million FRF, which almost entirely came from private donations.

The Sacré Coeur, because it is located at the hill in Montmartre, is one of the most noticeable landmarks in Paris. Its highest point is even higher than the top of the Eiffel Tower.

 - Sacre Coeur
Sacre Coeur. Photo by unknown


The basilica’s style is a loose interpretation of the Roman-Byzantine architectural style. Inspired by the Hagia Sofia and the Saint Mark’s Basilica, it was an unusual building in France for its time. As a matter of fact, it was a reaction against the extravagant Neo-Baroque styles of other new buildings that were erected in the city. A lot of elements in the design symbolize nationalism; there are, for example, statues of King Saint Louis IX and Joan of Arc.

Over the course of a century, the basilica has managed to keep its bright, white colors, even in a large and polluted city like Paris. The reason for this are the Château-Landon stones that make up the building. During rainfall, the stones react with the water and secrete calcite, which acts as a natural bleach.

The lovely interior. - Sacre
The lovely interior. - Sacre Coeur. Photo by Connie Ma

Visiting the Sacré Coeur Basilica

The Sacré Coeur Basilica is open to the public every day of the week between 6AM and 10.30PM. Admission is free.

Headless cardinal - Sacre Coeur
Headless cardinal - Sacre Coeur. Photo by FrenchKheldar
The Dome is the main highlight of a visit to the building, as it can be climbed via 300 steps and offers absolutely magnificent panoramic views of the city. The Dome is open every from 8.30AM until 8PM from May through September, and from 9AM until 5PM from October through April. The Dome is not free to visit and admission depends on a couple of variables.

The Crypt has the same opening hours as the Dome and is where processions are held and where you can see monumental statues and the graves of important religious people.

Another highlight inside the basilica is the 475-square-meter Mosaic of Christ in Glory, which is one of the largest mosaics in the world. This spectacular work of art depicts saints, popes, bishops, and members of the French royal family.

Additionally, the Grand Pipe Organ, built in 1898, is regarded to be the most extraordinary in Paris. It is huge and consists of 109 ranks and 78 speaking stops, four keyboards, and a pedalboard.

There are no guided tours inside the Sacré Coeur to ensure silence and respect for people who are praying. The bookshop sells guidebooks in several languages for €5 ($5.75).

How to Get There

The most convenient way to reach Montmartre and the basilica is the subway. Nearby stops are Anvers on the M2 train and Abbesses on the M12 train. From both stations you either have to take the cable car or walk the steps to the summit of the hills.

Similar Landmarks

There countless other religious building in Paris and in France. The most famous of all of them is the Notre-Dame de Paris. Other notable churches are Rouen Cathedral, Strasbourg Cathedral, Reims Cathedral, and Bourges Cathedral Saint Stephen.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Jan 11, 2015

Pictures of Sacre Coeur

Sacré Coeur, Montmartre. Paris - Sacre Coeur
Sacré Coeur, Montmartre. Paris - Sacre Coeur. Photo by Carlos Ortega

Sacré Coeur - Sacre Coeur
Sacré Coeur - Sacre Coeur. Photo by Serge Melki


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