|The basilica of Montmartre|
The Sacred Heart Basilica, known as “Basilique du Sacré-Cœur” in French, is one of the most iconic landmarks in Paris. Perched atop the picturesque Montmartre hill, it offers not only a stunning place of worship but also breathtaking panoramic views of the city.
History and Architecture of the Sacred Heart
Visiting the Sacred Heart Basilica in Paris is not only a chance to admire its architectural beauty but also an opportunity to experience a tranquil and spiritual side of this vibrant city.
Why the Sacred Heart Basilica ?
The idea for the Sacred Heart Basilica Paris was born in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War in the late 19th century. On September 20, 1870, a few days after the fall of the Second French Empire, Piedmontese troops entered Rome. Italian King Victor-Emmanuel took advantage of the fall of Napoleon III, who opposed the annexation by Italy of the last possessions of the pope Pie IX, to complete the unification of the peninsula. Pope Pius IX lost to the King of Italy Victor-Emmanuel II the temporal control he had had over Rome for several centuries. 30 years later, to the day, his successor Leo XIII abolished the Papal States and opened the door to a new form of sovereignty. During these 3 decades marked by a deep questioning, the Holy See carried out a revolution in order to find its place in the shadow of modernity. In this situation of October 1870, the French Catholics and the French Catholic church, called the “Eldest daughter of the Church”, decided to the consecration of Paris diocese to the Sacred Heart. So, the Sacred Heart Basilica project was born in this context to praise God for His help, His Mercy, through His Sacred Heart.
- June 6th 1875 : First stone
- August 1st 1885 : Definitive establishment of day and night Eucharistic adoration
- November 20th 1895 : Bell named la Savoyarde offered by the region of Savoy, Annecy
- October 16th 1919 : Definitive consecration
- June 4th 2010 – July1st 2011 : Jubilee of 125 years of continuous Eucharistic adoration, day and night
Sacred Heart Basilica architecture
Sacred Heart Basilica Paris was designed by the architect Paul Abadie and constructed between 1875 and 1914. The first stone was laid on June 6, 1875. The basilica was totally finished in 1935. The architectural style is a blend of Romano-Byzantine influences, characterized by its white domes and intricate mosaics. The basilica is situated in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris, at the highest point in the city. This location makes it visible from many parts of Paris, and its hilltop perch is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike.
The white stone from Château-Landon
Inaugurated in 1919, the Sacré Cœur basilica was built with stone from Château-Landon. This stone comes from the quarries of Souppes sur Loing, located in the south of the Seine-et-Marne department (77). It is this same stone which was used in the construction of the Arc de Triomphe and the Alexandre III bridge. The most astonishing characteristic of this stone, apart from its resistance, is that it whitens under the influence of rain. Indeed, upon contact with water, it secretes a white substance, cullet. This flows along the walls then hardens in the sun. This is how the basilica cleans itself every time it rains!
The Inside Mosaïc
Inside, the basilica is adorned with stunning artwork and religious symbols. The grand mosaic of Christ in Majesty in the apse is particularly impressive. Visitors can also explore the crypt, which houses various chapels and a small museum. Inside, the apse ceiling is decorated with the largest mosaic in France, covering an area of 473.78 m2. Designed by Luc-Olivier Merson and executed from 1918 to 1922 by the Guilbert-Martin workshops, it represents the Sacred Heart of Jesus glorified by the Catholic Church and France. At its base we can read a phrase in Latin meaning: “To the Most Holy Heart of Jesus, fervent, penitent and grateful France. »
Around him, at different scales, a whole world of worshipers is represented, including the Saints who protect France: in large, the Virgin Mary and Saint Michael, Saint Joan of Arc, as well as France personified offering her crown and Pope Leo XIII offering the world. On each side, in two rows under golden architecture, the homage of the Church (on the left) and of France (on the right) to the Sacred Heart.
- Catholic Church’s tribute:
Starting from the left, we see Pope Clement XIII who instituted the feast of the Sacred Heart, then Pope Pius IX who extended it to the universal Church, finally, Pope Leo XIII (holding up the globe) consecrating the genre human at the Sacred Heart. He is followed by characters symbolizing the five continents.
- France’s tribute:
Starting from the right, various historical events linking France to the Sacred Heart are evoked: the vow of Marseilles during the plague of 1720; the vow of the Temple with Louis XVI and the royal family (1792); the National Vow with Generals de Sonis and Charrette carrying the banner of the Sacred Heart (1870); the initiators of the Vow, Mr. Legentil and Mr. Rohault de Fleury (1871); the rapporteur of the bill before the National Assembly (1873); the cardinals of Paris (Card. Guibert, Richard, and Amette) who collaborated in the construction and beautification of the Basilica.
The Church of Heaven is placed on the “second floor” of the mosaic, surrounding the ceiling of the choir on which is figuratively represented the Holy Trinity (above Christ, dove of the Holy Spirit and face of the Father who holds and blesses the world), in two rows: the Saints who are particularly linked to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (on the left) and the Saints of France (on the right).
- The Church of Heaven (left): St Peter, St John, St Paul, St Ignatius of Antioch, St Agnes, St Augustine, St Dominic, St Francis of Assisi, St Ignatius of Loyola, St Gertrude, St Catherine of Siena, Ste Rose of Lima, St. Teresa of Avila.
- France from Heaven (right): St Lazare of Marseille, Ste Mary Magdalene and Ste Marthe, St Denis, St Martin, Ste Geneviève, St Bernard, St Louis, St François de Sales, St Vincent de Paul, Ste Marguerite-Marie, St Jean -Eudes, Ste Madeleine-Sophie Barrat.
At the base of this mosaic runs in Latin the formula which illustrates the construction of the Basilica as a gift from all of France to the Heart of Christ: “To the Sacred Heart of Jesus, fervent, penitent and grateful France”. The word “penitent”, often misinterpreted, has no political connotation here. It is a recognition of the sin of men as the source of the misfortunes and sufferings of humanity, and the expression of the desire to return to God. The word “grateful” was added after the First World War.
The grand pipe organ of the Sacred Heart Basilica Paris is considered to be one of the greatest in Europe. Built in 1898, it is the last great instrument built by the illustrious Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. It was originally commissioned by Baron Albert de l’Espée for his castle in Biarritz. He wanted the best available, regardless of expense. He sold the organ a few years later to Charles Mutin, Cavaillé’s successor. The Basilica acquired it in 1919.
The Sacred Heart Basilica Bell: The Savoyarde
The resonant tolling of a church bell, echoing through the tranquil air, has long been a symbol of spirituality and devotion. Among the many remarkable church bells in the world, the Sacred Heart Basilica Bell holds a unique and revered place. The campanile houses the famous “Savoyarde”. It is the largest bell in the world, at least among those that can swing. It weighs 19 tons. Its tonality, that of the low C, is very characteristic. It was offered by the 4 dioceses of Savoy and melted in 1895 in Annecy by the Paccard company, whose fame dates from that time.
Made in France
The story of the Sacred Heart Basilica Bell begins in the late 19th century when the renowned French foundry, Paccard company, was commissioned to create a bell that would become an integral part of the newly constructed Sacred Heart Basilica in Paris. This monumental undertaking aimed to craft a bell that would not only serve its liturgical purpose but also resonate with the deep spirituality of the basilica’s design.
The artisans at Paccard foundry poured their heart and soul into the creation of this exceptional bell, La Savoyarde. Using time-honored techniques, they melted down bronze and carefully cast the bell’s form. The result was a bell that not only possessed exquisite acoustic qualities but also bore intricate religious motifs, making it a true work of art for the Sacred Heart Basilica, in Paris.
Unique musical experience
The Sacred Heart Basilica Bell was not just a functional object; it was designed to create a unique musical experience. Its resonant tones, when rung, filled the basilica and its surroundings with an otherworldly harmony, inspiring awe and reverence among the faithful. For generations, the bell has served as a call to prayer. Its melodious chimes have beckoned parishioners to gather for Mass, marking the passage of time in a sacred rhythm. The sound of the bell has a way of transcending the mundane, elevating the spirits of those who hear it.
Throughout its long history, the Sacred Heart Basilica Bell has endured the tests of time. It withstood the trials of Massacre of the Religious of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart by the Communards, the bloody crushing of the Communards by the Versaillese, two world wars, bearing witness to the tumultuous events of the 20th century. Its enduring presence served as a beacon of hope and a reminder of unwavering faith during these trying times.
Religious Significance of the Sacred Heart in Paris
The basilica is a place of worship, and it’s dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It holds religious services regularly, and many pilgrims visit the basilica for spiritual purposes. The Sacred Heart Basilica is easily accessible via public transportation. You can take the funicular railway or climb the stairs to reach the top of Montmartre. The basilica is open daily, but check the opening hours before your visit. If you plan to enter the basilica, please remember that it is a place of worship, and respectful attire is required. This means covering shoulders and knees.
Adèle Garnier (August 15, 1838 – June 17, 1924, Tyburn near London) is a French nun (in religion Mother Marie of Saint-Pierre), founder in 1898 of the congregation of the Benedictines of the Sacré-Cœur of Montmartre. The charism of the congregation of our congregation, the Benedictines of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre, is part of the spiritual movement that resulted in the construction of the Sacred Heart. Recognized as a congregation on March 4, 1898, the community of the first sisters adopted the rule of Saint Benedict at the Chapter of 1914 and became of pontifical right when the first constitutions were approved in 1930.
Pope John-Paul II visiting The Sacred Heart Basilica
Acclaimed on the forecourt of Montmartre by a considerable crowd June 1st 1980, Pope John Paul II entered the basilica around midnight, ascended to the choir, prostrated himself for a long time before the exposed Blessed Sacrament and joined in the prayers of the adorers; after which he goes to the ambo to read the meditation.
It is your task to be the sentinels of the morning who announce the arrival of the sun, which is the resurrected Christ. The light of which Jesus speaks in the Scriptures is the light of faith, a gift from God, which brightens up the heart and enlightens mind. The personal encounter with Christ sheds new light on our lives, puts us on the right path and commits us to bearing witness to him. The new way of looking at the world and our fellow man, which comes from Him, allows us to penetrate more deeply the mystery of faith, which is an experience to assimilate, a truth to live, the salt and light of reality. (John-Paul II)
Before leaving the basilica to give his blessing on the city of Paris, John-Paul II adds in substance: “I confess to you that this visit is a privileged moment for me and for my whole life”; he then recommends to the prayers of worshipers “the Church and the whole world”. We come here to encounter the Heart pierced for us, from which water and blood flow. It is redeeming love, which is at the origin of salvation, of our salvation, which is at the origin of the Church. We come here to contemplate the love of the Lord Jesus: his compassionate goodness for all during his earthly life; his favorite love for the little ones, the sick, the afflicted. Let us contemplate his heart burning with love for his Father, in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Let us contemplate his infinite love, that of the eternal Son, which leads us to the very mystery of God.
Saint Marguerite and the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Saint Marguerite-Marie Alacoque (1647-1690) had a particular devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Inspired by Christ, Marguerite-Marie established the practice of the Holy Hour which consists of praying, lying on the ground, face to the ground from eleven o’clock in the evening until midnight on the first Thursday of each month, in order to share the mortal sadness that Christ endured in his Agony, and to receive Communion the next day. Marguerite Alacoque, sister Marguerite-Marie in religion, born July 22, 1647 in Verosvres, a small village in Burgundy and died October 17, 1690 in Paray-le-Monial, was a nun of the Order of the Visitation, mystic and inspiration of the cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church. She was beatified in 1864, then canonized in 1920, and her feast day is October 16. There is a dedicated chapel to Sainte Marguerite on the East of the basilica.
Sanctuary of Eucharistic Adoration and Divine Mercy
The Sacred Heart Basilica in Montmartre is a Sanctuary of Eucharistic Adoration and Divine Mercy. Since the 1st of August 1885, the silent adoration before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, true presence of Jesus Christ among us, is a continuous intercession for the Church and for the whole world, and an everlasting source of grace, light and peace. One may come at any time to pray in silence before the Blessed Sacrament on display. Every day, the Basilica is open to all from 6 am to 10.30 pm – At night (between 10.30 pm and 6 am) only persons registered for night adoration may remain in the Basilica. In the Holy Eucharist we celebrate the ever new and active presence of the one sacrifice of the cross in which Redemption is an eternally present event, indissolubly linked to the very intercession of the Savior. In the Holy Eucharist, we commune with Christ himself, the unique priest and unique host, who draws us into the movement of his offering and his adoration, he who is the source of all grace. In the Holy Eucharist – this is also the meaning of perpetual adoration – we enter into this movement of love from which all interior progress and all apostolic effectiveness flows: “When I have been lifted up from the earth, I I will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:32). If you want to spend a night of Adoration in the Sacred Heart Basilica, contact me.
The basilica is situated in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris, at the highest point in the city. This location makes it visible from many parts of Paris, and its hilltop perch is a fabulous spot for travelers and Parisians alike.
After exploring the basilica, be sure to wander around the charming Montmartre neighborhood. It’s famous for its artistic heritage, including being home to many famous artists. The Place du Tertre is a square where you can find local artists displaying their work. Watching the sunset from the steps of the Sacred Heart Basilica is a popular activity. The view as the sun sets over Paris is truly magical.
Just over a century ago, Montmartre hosted a perfect storm of artistic creativity and avant-garde thinking. Located on the highest hill of Paris, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart is the emblematic monument of Montmartre hill. The site is very touristy but offers a pleasant environment marked by cabarets and by artists such as Suzanne Valadon, Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso, Marcel Aymé, Dalida, Edith Piaf… but also by the catholic Faith with Saint Pierre de Montmartre church from the 12th century and the Crypte du Martyrium de Saint-Denis.
Montmartre hill was covered with orchards (verger, arbres fruitiers), vineyards, thatched cottages (chaumières), about 30 windmills and its Royal Abbey of the Benedictine Religious of Montmartre. Nowadays, its spirit is the one of a village named the rooftop of Paris, being the highest point from the natural ground at 130.53 meters or 426 ft. This beautiful bohemian neighborhood is full of history and famous artists from writers, singers, dancers to painters. You may catch those free spirits here. Every year in October, you have the Montmartre Feast of the harvest to celebrate an authentic Parisian wine.
The panoramic views of Paris from the basilica are unparalleled, making it a must-visit destination for any traveler. Ask me for a private tour of Montmartre and if you want to pursue a spiritual experience in Paris ask me about Christian Tours.