Thursday, November 6, 2014

Paris - Basilica Sacre du Coeur de Montmarte

Date of visit: 17th April 2014

It was a pleasant walk we had that day to reach the Sacred Heart basilica of Paris which is located at 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre. From Palais Royal – Musee du Louvre, we took a Metro Line 1 headed towards la Defense. We have to change platform from Line M1 to Line M12 at Concorde station. It took us about 1 minute walk to arrive at Line 12 platform from line 1. Following the direction provided at Line M12 towards Front Populaire, we boarded the metro to the next stop, Abesses station easily . As Sacre Coeur seated at the top of the hill, prepared yourself to physically climb an uncounted stairs and a hilly road. To make it more interesting, our group did a numerous stop buying gifts for our loves one back home as it was the only day left to spend in Paris.

Though the walk seems rather challenging than before, we were steadily enjoying the crowds, blue skies, rows of shop, steep hilly streets, surrounding buildings, aromatic brewed coffee and a nice spring breeze. I doubt if you are not agreeable to what I said, may be able to evaluate yourself by looking at numerous photos shared in this entry.

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacre-Cœur Basilica and often simply Sacre-Cœur, is a Roman Catholic Church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Paris, France. A popular landmark, the basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. Sacre-Cœur is a double monument, political and cultural, both a national penance for the defeat of France in the 1871 Franco-Prussian War and the socialist Paris Commune of 1871 crowning its most rebellious neighbourhood, and an embodiment of conservative moral order, publicly dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was an increasingly popular vision of a loving and sympathetic Christ.

The Sacre-Cœur Basilica was designed by Paul Abadie in Byzantine architecture. Construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. It was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919. This is the latest built building compared to all our visited places thus far in Paris. The Basilica is also accessible by bus. Buses umber 30, 31, 80, and 85 can be taken to the bottom of the hill of the Basilica. Beside our routes, Line 12 of the metro can also be taken up to Jules Joffrin station and then change to the Montmartrobus and disembark at Place du Tertre. Line 2 or 12 of the metro can be taken to Pigalle station, later change to the Montmartrobus and disembark at Norvins, or to Anvers station which gives easy access to the steps or the funicular car that lead directly to the Basilica. You may skip many staircases by using this route. We used our Paris Pass to take funicular car on the way down.

Sacre-Cœur is open as early as 6 am in the morning and close at 11.30 pm (22:30) every day. For those who still have lots energy to spare, is encourage to climb the staircases to reach the dome which is accessible from 9 am till 7pm in the summer and up till 6 pm in the winter. I was told by the Japanese lady that has just completed her climb, of how breathtaking is the view seen up there from the dome but I decided not to go up due to limit of time. Nevertheless, it’s worth trying your effort I believe.

A way up to the Dome
The following are some of the interesting facts about sacre-coeur basilica, worthy to add to our knowledge:-

The Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre, or Sacre-Coeur, is a major landmark in Paris. The site has a complex history from pagan times through the Middle Ages and French Revolution and is now a major cultural center in this popular neighborhood. Montmartre, the hill on which the basilica stands, has been a sacred site since pagan times. Druids are thought to have worshipped there, and the ancient Romans built temples to Mars and Mercury. Montmartre was originally named "Mons Martis," meaning "Mount of Mars." This was later Christianized to "Montmartre," or "Mount of the Martyr." "Sacre-Coeur" is a reference to the sacred heart of Jesus.

The first Christian chapel was built on Montmartre around 475 A.D., in honor of the martyred St. Denis, who was the first bishop of Paris. Besides St. Denis, Montmartre became associated with Christian martyrs in general, and was a popular destination for pilgrims in the Middle Ages. In 1792, during the French Revolution, the abbey which had grown up around the chapel was destroyed, and the inhabitants dispersed. The Abbess was eventually executed. During the Paris Commune of 1871, hundreds of commune members hid in the chalk mines near the Sacre-Coeur. They were killed when the government dynamited the exits, adding to the hill's body count.

In the 1800s a contest was held to choose a designer for the modern basilica. The winner, Paul Abadie, used a unique style drawing on Roman and Byzantine influences. The Sacre-Coeur is constructed of stone from Chateau-Landon, which is known for it's high content of calcite. In damp weather calcite leaches out of the stone, keeping the appearance of the monument chalky white. The top of the dome is open to the public, and is the second-highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower. Many tourists visit just for the panoramic views. On warm evenings, Parisians and visitors gather on the steps of the Sacre-Coeur to enjoy the view of the city. Many bring instruments, so there is often live music.

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