|Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre|
Sacré Coeur de Montmartre
|Province||Archdiocese of Paris|
|Ecclesiastical or organizational status||Minor basilica|
|Length||85 metres (279 ft)|
|Width||35 metres (115 ft)|
|Height (max)||83 metres (272 ft)|
The Basilica of Sacré Coeur de Montmartre (Sacred Heart of Montmartre), commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica and often simply Sacré-Cœur (French: Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre, pronounced [sakʁe kœʁ]), is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica in Paris, France, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Sacré-Cœur Basilica is located at the summit of the butte of Montmartre. From the dome, two hundred meters above the Seine, it is possible to see all of Paris, and the countryside for fifty kilometres around. It is the second-most visited monument in Paris, after the Eiffel Tower. Sacré-Cœur Basilica has maintained a perpetual adoration of the Holy Eucharist since 1885.
The Basilica was first proposed by Felix Fournier, the Bishop of Nantes, on 4 September 1870, following the defeat of France and the capture of Napoleon III at the Battle of Sedan, in the Franco-Prussian War, and six months before the Paris Commune. He blamed the defeat of France upon the "moral decline" of France since the Revolution, and proposed a new Paris church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Christ. The site chosen was the butte of Montmartre, overlooking the whole city, and the traditional location of the martrydom of Saint Denis, the patron saint of Paris.
The basilica was designed by Paul Abadie, whose Neo-Byzantine-Romanesque plan was selected from among seventy-seven proposals. Construction began in 1875, and continued for forty years, under five successive architects. It was completed in 1914, but, because of World War I, it was not formally consecrated until 1919.
The site of the church was politically controversial, since Montmartre was also the site of beginning of the Paris Commune where, on March 18, 1871, Communard soldiers killed two French army generals and seized a park full of artillery. On the last day of the Commune, one of its leaders, the socialist and anarchist Eugène Varlin, was executed there. There was (and remains) a feeling of resentment on the French left against this particular church.
The idea of creating a new Paris church dedicated to the heart of the Virgin Mary was first proposed on September 4, 1870, following the defeat of France and the capture of Emperor Napoleon III, by the Prussians at the Battle of Sedan in the Franco-Prussian War. It was proposed six months before the Paris Commune. The idea came from by Felix Fournier, the Bishop of Nantes from 1870 until his death in 1877. As a Bishop, Fournier was an active builder; he had completed the long-delayed restoration of Nantes Cathedral. He wrote that the defeat of France in 1870 war was a divine punishment for the moral decline of France since the French Revolution.
In January 1871, two months before the beginning of Paris Commune, the Bishop Fournier's idea was taken up by the philanthropist Alexandre Legentil. Legentil was a follower of Frederic Ozanam, founder of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. Legentil declared that France had been justly punished for its sins, by the defeat of the French Army at Sedan and the imprisonment of the Pope in Italy by Italian nationalists. He wrote, "We recognise that we were guilty and justly punished. To make honourable amends for our sins, and to obtain the infinite mercy of the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ and the pardon of our sins, as well as extraordinary aid which alone can delivery or sovereign Pontiff from captivity and stop the misfortunes of France, we promise to contribute to the erection in Paris of a sanctuary dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus." The influence of Legentil was sufficient to launch a successful fundraising campaign, entirely from private contributions.
The site was chosen because it was the highest and most visible point in the city and had a long connection with Christian martyrs, not because of its connection with the Commune, though that was not entirely ignored. Funding for the basilica came entirely from private donors. However, to assist in obtaining the site, which included some lots belonging to the local government and some to private owners, the French parliament was asked to declare that the construction of the Basilica was in the national interest.
It was not until July 1873 that the project was finally brought forward in the National Assembly. The new parliament had 686 members, and was dominated by conservative Catholics. Opponents of the proposed basilica claimed that its real purpose was to blame the Paris Commune for the destruction in Paris, though the Commune was not mentioned at all in the official text. The text simply said "it was necessary to efface by this work of expiation the crimes which have crowned our sorrows" without mentioning what the crimes were. The proposal was approved on July 24 by a vote of 382 to 138, with 160 deputies abstaining.
When the groundbreaking for the new church finally took place in 1875, Bishop Hubert de Fleury finally did mention the Commune. He pointed to the hillside below the site and declared, "It is there that the Commune began, there that were assassinated Generals Clement Thomas and Lecompte, and here that we raise the church of Sacre-Coeur".
Montmartre was chosen as the site for the church because of its dominating height and visibility from many parts of the city. As its name (meaning "Hill of the Martyrs") suggested, it also had a long association with the early Christian church in Paris. According to tradition, it was the place where the patron saint of Paris, Saint Denis of Paris, was beheaded by the Romans, and then was said to have carried his head several miles to where his tomb was eventually located in the Basilica of Saint Denis. That Basilica became the traditional resting place for the Kings of France until the French Revolution. Before the Basilica, the Butte was the site of one of the oldest churches in Paris, Saint-Pierre de Montmartre, just below the new Basilica. The older Montmartre Abbey, which had been destroyed during the French Revolution, was also located on Montmartre.
The Society of Jesus was founded on Montmartre on 27 September 1540, in the church of Saint-Pierre de Montmartre, by Ignatius of Loyola, who was living in Paris at the time. He became its first Superior General.
A competition was held for the design of the church, which attracted more than seventy-seven proposals. It was won by architect Paul Abadie With delays in assembling the property, the foundation stone was finally laid 16 June 1875.
The early construction was prolonged and complicated, due to the unstable nature the earth under the church. Eighty-three wells, each thirty meters deep, had to be dug under the site, and filled with rock and concrete, to serve as subterranean pillars supporting the basilica. Construction costs, estimated at 7 million French francs and drawn entirely from private donations, were expended before any above-ground, visible structure was to be seen. A provisional chapel was consecrated 3 March 1876, and pilgrimage donations quickly became the mainstay of funding. Donations were encouraged by the expedient of permitting donors to "purchase" individual columns or other features as small as a brick.
Abadie died in 1894, not long after the foundation had been laid, He was succeeded by other architects who made extensive modifications: Honoré Daumet (1884–1886), Jean-Charles Laisné (1886–1891), Henri-Pierre-Marie Rauline (1891–1904), Lucien Magne (1904–1916), and Jean-Louis Hulot (1916–1924). The basilica was not completed until 1914, when war intervened; it was formally dedicated in 1919 after World War I.
Though the construction of basilica was already underway, the opponents of the Basilica did not cease their efforts to stop it. Leftist candidates, led by Georges Clemenceau, won the parliamentary elections in 1882, when the walls of the church were barely above the foundations. Clemenceau proposed to stop work on the "odious monument" which he called "the intolerable invocation of the Sacred Heart". In 1882, the parliament blocked all further funding for construction. However, the church was saved by a technicality. The law was passed too late in the session for it to be officially put into effect. The government, which would have had to pay twelve million francs in liabilities if it cancelled the construction, allowed building to continue.
In February 1897, though the interior of the church had already been completed, dedicated and opened for worship six years earlier, Clemenceau made one last effort in the parliament to block it, calling it "a provocation to civil war". Defenders of the church argued that cancellation of the project would require repaying thirty million francs to the eight million people who had contributed to its construction. The motion to cancel the church was defeated in the parliament by a vote of 322 to 196.
The dome of the church was completed in 1899, and the bell tower was finished in 1912. The consecration of the church was postponed until 1919, after the First World War.
Controversy over the church
Criticism of the church by leftist journalists and politicians for its alleged connection with the destruction of the Paris Commune continued from the late 19th century into the 20th and 21st centuries. In 1898, Emile Zola wrote sarcastically, "France is guilty. It must do penitence. Penitence for what? For the Revolution, for a century of free speech and science, and emancipated reason... for that they built this gigantic landmark that Paris can see from all of its streets, and cannot be seen without feeling misunderstood and injured."
Shortly after the completed Statue of Liberty was transported from France to the United States, opponents of Sacre-Coeur came up with a new strategy. They proposed installing a full-size copy of the Statue of Liberty on top of Montmartre, directly in front of the Basilica, which would entirely block the view of the church. This idea was eventually dropped as expensive and impractical.
A bomb was exploded inside the church in 1976. To make the government opposition to the church clear, the socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin renamed the square in front of and below the church for Louise Michel, the prominent anarchist and participant in the Paris Commune. He expressed his wish that the basilica be demolished as a symbol of "obscurantism, bad taste and reactionism."
In 2021, to avoid celebrating the church's history in the same year as the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune, leftist members of the French parliament blocked a measure to declare the church a national historic monument and postponed it until 2022.
The church is 85 meters long and thirty-five meters wide. It is composed of a large central rotunda, around which are placed a small nave, two transepts, and an advance-choir, which form a cross. The porch of the church has three bays, and is modelled after the porch of Périgueux Cathedral. The dominant feature is the immense elongated ovoid cupola, 83.33 meters high, surrounded by four smaller cupolas. At the north end is the campanile, or bell tower, 84 meters high, containing the "Savoyarde", the largest bell in France.
The overall style of the structure is a free interpretation of Romano-Byzantine architecture. This was an unusual architectural style at the time, and was in part a reaction against the neo-Baroque of the Palais Garnier opera house by Charles Garnier, and other buildings of the Napoleon III style. The construction was eventually handed on to a series of new architects, including Garnier himself, who was a counsellor to the architect Henri-Pierre Rauline between 1891 and 1904,
Some elements of the design, particularly the elongated domes and the structural forms of the windows on the south facade, are Neo-classical, and were added by the later architects Henri-Pierre Rauline and Lucien Magne.
The campanile, or bell tower, on the north front, houses the nineteen-ton Savoyarde bell (one of the world's heaviest), cast in 1895 in Annecy. It alludes to the attachment of Savoy to France in 1860.
The porch the south facade, the main entrance, is loaded with sculpture combining religious and French national themes. It is topped with a statue representing the Sacred Heart of Christ. The arches of the facade are decorated with two equestrian statues of French national saints Joan of Arc (1927) and King Saint Louis IX, both executed in bronze by Hippolyte Lefèbvre.
Saint Louis (Louis IX) (south facade)
The white stone of Sacré-Cœur is travertine limestone of a type called Chateau-Landon, quarried in Souppes-sur-Loing, in Seine-et-Marne, France. The particular quality of this stone is that it is extremely hard with a fine grain, and exudes calcite on contact with rainwater, making it exceptionally white.
The nave is dominated by the very high dome, which symbolises the celestial world, resting upon a rectangular space,symbolising the terrestrial world. The two are joined by massive columns, which represent the passage between the two worlds.
The plan of the interior is a Greek cross, with the altar in the center, modelled after Byzantine churches. More traditional Latin features, the choir and the disambulatory, were added around the altar. The light in interior of the church is unusually dim, due to the height of the windows above the altar, and this contributes to the mystical effect. Other Byzantine features in the interior include the designs of the tile floor and the glasswork.
The Mosaic "Christ in Majesty"
The mosaic over the choir, entitled The Triumph of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is the largest and most important work of art in the church. It was created by Luc-Olivier Merson, H. M. Magne and R. Martin, and was dedicated in 1923. The mosaic is composed of 25,000 enamelled and gilded pieces of ceramic, and covers 475 square meters, making it one of the largest mosaics in the world.
The central figure is Christ, dressed in white, with open arms offering his heart, decorated with gold. He is joined by his mother, the Virgin Mary, and by the Archangel Michael, the protector of the church and of France. At his feet, kneeling, is Saint Joan of Arc offering him a crown. A figure of Pope Leo XIII offers a globe to Christ, symbolising the world.
To the right of Christ is a scene titled "The Homage of France to the Sacred Heart;" a group of popes and cardinals present a model of the Basilica to Christ. On his left is "The Homage of the Catholic Church to the Sacred Heart": where people in the costumes of the five continents pay their homage to the Sacred Heart. At the base of the mosaic is a Latin inscription, stating that the Basilica is a gift from France. "To the Sacred Heart of Jesus, France fervent, penitent and grateful.” The word "grateful" was added after World War I.
At the top of the mosaic is another procession, called "the Saints of France and Saints of the Universal Church". In all of the mosaic, the artists adapted elements of Byzantine art in the organization of the figures, the altered perspective, and the use of polychrome colors enhanced with silver and gold.
The basilica complex also includes a garden for meditation, with a fountain. The top of the dome is open to tourists and affords a spectacular panoramic view of the city of Paris, which spreads out to the south of the basilica.
The use of cameras and video recorders is forbidden inside the basilica.
The interior of the basilica is surrounded by a series of chapels, mostly offered by professional groups or religious orders. The chapels are decreed with sculpture, relief sculpture, and tapestries, often relating to the professions of the donors. For example, the Chapel of the order of Notre Dame of the Sea is decorated with tapestries illustrating Christ walking on the water and the Miraculous Catch of fish. Beginning to the right of the main entrance, they are:
- The Chapel of the Archangel Michael, or Chapel of the Armies
- The Chapel of Saint Louis (Louis IX) or the Attorneys
- The Tribune of Commerce and Industry (end of the East transept)
- The Chapel of Marguerite-Marie Alacoque
- the Chapel of Notre Dame of the Sea
The apse itself is ringed by an additional seven chapels.
- The Chapel of Saint Francis of Assisi
- The Chapel of Saint John the Baptist, offered by Canada and the Knights of Malta
- The Chapel of Saint Joseph
- The Chapel of the Virgin Mary
- The Chapel of Saint Luke the Evangelist, Comé and Damien, or the Doctors
- The Chapel of Ignace de Loyola
- Th Chapel of Saint Ursula of Cologne
- The Chapel of Saint Vincent de Paul
- The Tribune of Agriculture (at the at the end of the west transept)
- The chapel of the Queens of France
The crypt below Sacré-Coeur, is different from traditional crypts, which are usually underground. At Sacré-Coeur, the crypt has stained glass windows, thanks to a "saut-de-loup", a trench about four meters wide around it, which allows light to enter through windows and oculi of the crypt wall. In the centre of the Crypt is the chapel of the Pieta, whose central element is a monument statue of the Virgin Mary at the foot of the cross, at the altar. The statue was made by Jules Coutain in 1895. A series of seven chapels are placed on the east side and seven on the west side of crypt, corresponding to the chapels on the level above. The crypt contains the tombs of important figures in the creation of the basilica, including Cardinals Guibert and Richard.
Art and Decoration
Decoration covers the walls, the floor, and the architecture. Much of the decoration is in a distinctly neo-Byzantine style, with intricate patterns, and abundant color.
The basilica contains a large and very fine pipe organ built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, the most celebrated organ builder in Paris in the 19th century. His other organs included those of Saint-Denis Basilica (1841), Sainte-Clotilde Basilica (1859), Saint-Sulpice church and Notre Dame de Paris (1868). The organ is composed of 109 ranks and 78 speaking stops spread across four 61-note manuals and the 32-note pedalboard (unusual before the start of the 20th century; the standard of the day was 56 and 30), and has three expressive divisions (also unusual for the time, even in large organs).
The organ was originally built in 1898 for the Biarritz chateau of the Baron Albert de L'Espée. It was the last instrument built by Cavaillé-Coll. The organ was ahead of its time, containing multiple expressive divisions and giving the performer considerable advantages over other even larger instruments of the day. It was almost identical (tonal characteristics, layout, and casework) to the instrument in Sheffield's Albert Hall, which was destroyed by fire in 1937. However, when installed in Paris in 1905 by Cavaillé-Coll's successor and son-in-law, Charles Mutin, a much plainer case was substituted for the original ornate case.
The organ was recognised as a national landmark in 1981. It has undergone several restorations. The most recent, begun in 1985, replaced only the most severely damaged pneumatic parts, but others have deteriorated and some are no longer usable. The pipes are now covered with a thick layer of dust which impacts the pitch and timbre. Though the organ is now recognized as a national monument, the church itself is not, largely due to political opposition from leftist parties. It is expected to receive landmark status in 2022.
The belfry of the basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre houses 5 bells, 4 small bells named from largest to smallest: Félicité, Louise, Nicole and Elisabeth, that were the original bells of the church of Saint-Roch and moved to the basilica in 1969.
Below the 4 bells is a huge bourdon called "The Savoyarde", the biggest bell in France, The full name of the bourdon is “Françoise Marguerite of the Sacred Heart of Jesus". It was cast on May 13, 1891 by the Paccard foundry (Dynasty of Georges, Hippolyte-Francisque and Victor or "G & F") in Annecy-le-Vieux.
The Savoyarde itself only rings for major religious holidays, especially on the occasion of Easter, Pentecost, Ascension, Christmas, Assumption and All Saints. It can be heard from 10 km away. This bell is the fifth largest in Europe, ranking behind the Petersglocke of Cologne (Germany), the Olympic Bell of London, Maria Dolens of Rovereto (Italy), and the Pummerin of Vienna (Austria). It weighs 18,835 kg, measures 3,03 m of diameter for 9.60 m of outer circumference, with a base thickness of 22 cm and a leaf of 850 kg. With its accessories, its official weight reaches 19,685 kg. It was offered by the four dioceses of Savoy. It was transported to the Basilica on October 16, 1895, pulled by a team of 28 horses. In the late 1990s, a crack was noticed in the bell.
Role in Catholicism
Since 1885 (before construction had been completed) the Blessed Sacrament (Christ's body, consecrated during the Mass) has been continually on display in a monstrance above the high altar. Perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has continued uninterrupted in the basilica since 1885.
Tourists and others are asked to dress appropriately when visiting the basilica and to observe silence as much as possible, so as not to disturb persons who have come from around the world to pray in this place of pilgrimage, especially since the Blessed Sacrament is displayed. Photos are not allowed to be taken in the Basilica.
The basilica is accessible by bus or metro. Sacré-Cœur is open from 06:00 to 22:30 every day. The dome is accessible from 09:00 to 19:00 in the summer and to 18:00 in the winter.
Copy in Martinique
A much smaller version of the basilica, Sacré-Cœur de la Balata, is located north of Fort-de-France, Martinique, on N3, the main inland road. Built for the refugees driven from their homes by the eruption of Mount Pelée, it was dedicated in 1915.
- Architecture of Paris
- Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, seer and promoter of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
- Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart, promoter of the world consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
- Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a great shrine dedicated to the worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
- Sanctuary of Christ the King, the Portuguese national shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
- A statue to François-Jean de la Barre was erected in front of Sacré-Cœur as a counter-action to its construction.
- Valley of the Fallen, Catholic basilica and a monumental memorial in the municipality of San Lorenzo de El Escorial
- "Le Sacre-Coeur - Monument Historique? Polemique en Vue." by Baudouin Eschapasse, "Le Point" magazine, October 14, 2020
- The competition was commemorated in Souvenir du Concours de l’Église du Sacré-Cœur (Paris: J. Le Clere) 1874.
- Milza, Pierre, "L'année terrible: La Commune (Mars–Juin 1871) Milza, Pierre (2009a). L'année terrible: La Commune (mars–juin 1871). Paris: Perrin. ISBN 978-2-262-03073-5.
- (David Harvey, "Monument and Myth" Annals of the Association of American Geographers 69 .3 (September 1979, pp. 362–381) p 377).
- Harvey it said "Monument and Myth" 1979, pp 380–81 .
- Harvey, David, "Memorial and Myth" (1979), p. 369
- Rustenholtz, Alain, "Traversées de Paris" (2010), p. 376-387
- "Montmartre, Paris' last village. Facts". Paris Digest. 2018. Retrieved 2018-09-07.
- Harvey "Monument and Myth" 1979, pp 380–81 .
- "Dictionnaire Historique de Paris" (2013), p. 684
- In 1877, its first full year of operation, visiting pilgrims dropped over 240,000 francs into the collection boxes; the figure doubled the following year. (Jonas 1993:495).
- This fund-raising technique, originated at Sacré-Cœur, became standard practice for funding cultural institutions' building projects in Europe and the Americas after World War I.
- Harvey, David, "Memorial and Myth" (1979), p. 369-81
- "Dictionnaire Historique de Paris" (2013), pg. 684
- "Pourquoi veut-on la peau du Sacré-Cœur?" "Liberation", February 27, 2017
- "Dictionnaire Historique de Paris", p. 684
- Legentil had wanted to demolish Garnier's half-built opera house and build the church on the site of that "scandalous monument of extravagance, indecency and bad taste" (Harvey "Monument and Myth" 1979, P376 ).
- Dumoulin, Aline; Ardisson, Alexandra; Maingard, Jérôme; Antonello, Murielle; "Églises de Paris" (2010), p. 184
- "architecture". www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com.
- Dumoulin, Aline; Ardisson, Alexandra; Maingard, Jérôme; Antonello, Murielle; "Églises de Paris" (2010), p. 184-187
- Dumoulin, Aline; Ardisson, Alexandra; Maingard, Jérôme; Antonello, Murielle; "Églises de Paris" (2010), p. 184-187
- "The Apse Mosaic". www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com.
- Jacques Benoist, "Le Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre, Paris", Editions de l'Atelier, 1992, p. 482
- "The Grand Organ".
- "Basilique Sacré-Coeur". Université du Québec. Archived from the original on 2 February 2009.
- Raymond Anthony Jonas, France and the cult of the Sacred Heart: an epic tale for modern times, (University of California) 2000, ch. "Building the Church of the National Vow".
- "Opening Hours for the Visit". Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
- Steve, Bennett. "Sacré-Coeur de la Balata, Martinique: Uncommon Attraction". Uncommon Caribbean. Martinique.
Bibliography (in French)
- Benoist, Pere Jacques, "Le Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre de 1870 à nos jours ", Les éditions ouvrières (1992), ISBN 978-2-7082-2978-5
- Dumoulin, Aline; Ardisson, Alexandra; Maingard, Jérôme; Antonello, Murielle; Églises de Paris (2010), Éditions Massin, Issy-Les-Moulineaux, ISBN 978-2-7072-0683-1
- "Dictionnaire Historique de Paris", Le livre de Poche, (2013), ISBN 978-2-253-13140-3
- Hillairet, Jacques; Connaissance du Vieux Paris; (2017); Éditions Payot-Rivages, Paris; (in French). ISBN 978-2-2289-1911-1
- Jacques Benoist, Le Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre de 1870 a nos Jours (Paris) 1992. A cultural history from the point of view of a former chaplain.
- Yvan Crist, "Sacré-Coeur" in Larousse Dictionnaire de Paris (Paris) 1964.
- David Harvey. Consciousness and the Urban Experience: Studies in the History and Theory of Capitalist Urbanization. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press) 1985.
- Milza, Pierre (2009). L'année terrible: La Commune (mars–juin 1871). Paris: Perrin. ISBN 978-2-262-03073-5.
- David Harvey."The building of the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur", coda to Paris, Capital of Modernity (2003:311ff) Harvey made use of Hubert Rohault de Fleury. Historique de la Basilique du Sacré Coeur (1903–09), the official history of the building of the Basilica, in four volumes, printed, but not published.
- Raymond A. Jonas. “Sacred Tourism and Secular Pilgrimage: and the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur”. in Montmartre and the Making of Mass Culture. Gabriel P. Weisberg, editor. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univerrsity Press) 2001.
- Rustenholtz, Alain (2010). Traversées de Paris. Parigramme. ISBN 978-2-84096-684-5.