THAT translates to “up the hill part three” as I made it top the hill twice in the past—first by myself, the second with honeymooning couple Kim and Nikki, and most recently, in the company of good friends, Tenny and his family, who are devout Catholics. This was one place they shouldn’t miss out on their first visit to the City of Lights.
Three times and I don’t mind having a fourth. Up this highest point in the city, at the summit of butte Montmartre, you can luxuriate in a spectacular panoramic view of the city of Paris. It’s breathtaking! Turn around and gaze up, way past the couple of hundreds steps is one of the most beautiful churches in the city—the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur, or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris. It’s one of the most popular landmarks in the city primarily because of its location and history, the latter of which few know of.
It’s a Roman Catholic Church and minor basilica dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus designed by Paul Abadie, an architect whose design won over 77 other architects in a design competition. Constructed in 1875 and finished in 1914, the Romano-Byzantine (a term unheard of then) inspired structure is built of travertine stone known as ‘Château-Landon’, a material that exudes calcite and bleaches with age to white, an ideal anti-weathering and anti-pollution material.
Here are some interesting historical facts about this basilica—it was built on seized land after a “law of public utility” was passed for its construction; it was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919, five years after it was finished; it serves as a political and cultural monument. The church will serve as “atonement for the sins of the Commune” (Montmartre was the site of Commune’s first insurrection), and a spiritual renewal after "a century of moral decline" since the French Revolution.
The interior design centers on the feature the basilica is dedicated to— the image of Christ, gleaming in gold and white against aqua above the altar.
The apse is made of mosaic, an artwork among the largest in the world. Entitled “Christ in Majesty,” the impressive piece depicts Christ in Majesty and The Sacred Heart worshiped by the Virgin Mary, Joan of Arc and St. Michael the Archangel. It’s the brainchild of Luc-Olivier Merson, a French artist known for his postage stamp and currency designs.
Another point of interest can be found behind the main altar, it appears to be an adoration chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The images highlighted from within the arches are very striking.
I have a feeling this won’t be the last time I will be visiting this basilica. There are a couple of areas I want to explore— the crypt and the 300-step hike up to the dome. I wonder who my travel mates will be next time around?
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