The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacre Coeur Basilica and often simply Sacre Coeur, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Paris, France.
It is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city.
The top of the hill of Montmartre where the church now 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.
The Sacre Coeur Basilica was designed by Paul Abadie in Romanesque-Byzantine style. Construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. It was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919.
Sacre Coeur 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 neighborhood, 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.
In contrast to the Gothic churches of the Middle Ages like Notre Dame Cathedral, the style is inspired by churches such as Saint Sofia in Constantinople and San Marco in Venice.
The Sacre Coeur Basilica is 85 metres (279 feet) long, 35 metres (115 feet) wide and has a height of 83 meters (272 feet).
The nearby bell tower contains the “Savoyarde“, the majestic bell, which was cast in the city of Annecy in 1895. It is one of the world’s heaviest bells weighing over 19 tonnes (21 US tons).
The triple-arched portico is surmounted by two bronze equestrian statues of France’s national saints, Joan of Arc and King Saint Louis IX, designed by Hippolyte Lefebvre.
The main portal has grand bronze doors with foliage designs.
The interior architecture, also in the Romano-Byzantine style, gives this “house of God” an atmosphere of harmony and peace. The light and architectural details focus attention on the apse, the place of liturgical celebration and adoration of the Holy Sacrament.
The floor plan is an equal-armed Greek cross, with a large dome over the crossing. In the huge choir, 11 tall round arches support a barrel vault.
The interior of the church contains one of the world’s largest mosaics, which depicts Jesus Christ with outstretched arms. The mosaic was done between 1900 and 1922.
Since 1885 (before construction had been completed), the Blessed Sacrament 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.
The grand pipe organ of the Sacre Coeur Basilica is unanimously considered to be one of the most remarkable in Paris, France and Europe. Built in 1898, it is the last great instrument built by the illustrious Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.
The crypt contains statues of saints and a relic that some believe to be the very Sacred Heart (Sacré-Coeur) of Christ.
The basilica complex 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 is mostly to the south of the basilica. It is the second-highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower.
The Sacre Coeur Basilica has managed to keep its beaming white color even in the polluted air of a big city like Paris. This can be attributed to the Château-Landon stones which were used for the construction of the Sacre Coeur. When it rains, the stones react to the water and secrete calcite, which acts like a bleacher.
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.
Welcoming more than 11.5 million visitors (tourists and pilgrims alike) each year, the Sacre Coeur basilica is France’s second most visited church after Notre-Dame cathedral.