Résumé

The Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur was born after a vow.
This personal vow was made by the philanthropist Alexandre Legentil in January 1871, to atone for the "misfortunes that desolate France and perhaps greater misfortunes that still threaten it". He was talking of the lost war of 1870 against the Prussians (Germans)
The aftermath of the 1870 war.
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870, sometimes called the Franco-Prussian War or the War of 1870, lost by the French led to an new elected Assembly, to replace Napoleon III. This assembly had a monarchist majority, along with certain measures implemented by the Assembly or the government, reinforced a climate of unrest within the Parisian National Guard and popular circles. An insurrection broke out in Montmartre on March 18, 1871, and set up an insurrectional independant authority: the Paris Commune.
The personality of Alexandre Legentil
Alexandre Legentil's strong personality in the Parisian Catholic landscape and his many connections, began the steps that were to lead to the realization of the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur several decades later.
Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur and Commune de Paris
Therefore the Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur construction is frequently associated with the events of the Paris Commune. It is said to have been built to "atone for the crimes" of the Commune of May 1871.
The committee of the "Œuvre du Vœu National"
It decided that the choice of the architect would be made by competition. Certain elements were imposed: the site (Montmartre), a budget limited to seven million francs, a crypt, and a monumental statue of the Sacred Heart that was highly visible and placed outside.
The Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur is mainly financed by a large number of French people through a national subscription.
More than half a century to be completed
It took more than half a century to complete the basilica as it is today, with multiple problèmes : foundation, political disagreements and even until after the Second World War, whose bombardments destroyed the stained glass windows.
In total, the program cost six times more than expected.
The building specifications
The basilica is not built according to traditional basilica drawings. It is in the shape of a Greek cross, decorated with four domes. The central dome has a keystone height of 54.94 m and a diameter of 16 meters. Its central dome, 83 m high, was the highest point in Paris before the construction of the Eiffel Tower, which is the Republican counterpart of the basilica. It is surmounted by a skylight formed by a colonnade. A spiral staircase of 237 steps leads to the inner and outer gallery of this dome, the first offering a view of the interior of the church and the second a circular panorama over 30 km on a clear day. Unlike most churches that traditionally have an East-West orientation, the basilica's orientation is North-South.
The crypt, which has the same layout as the church, is one of the curiosities of the basilica.
The uninterrupted prayers 24 hours a day since 1885
Since 1885, the faithful - men, women, and children from all walks of life - have been taking turns 24 hours a day to recite a prayer uninterrupted, day and night. This prayer is the mission that the Basilica received at its consecration: a mission of constant intercession for the Church and the world.

Localisation
  • Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, 35 rue du Chevalier de la Barre, Paris, 75018, France

Open hours

The Basilique du Sacré-Cœur remains open to the prayers of the faithful from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm during the time of confinement.

OFFICES: Morning at 9am and Vespers at 6pm (masses are no longer celebrated in the presence of the faithful.)

Special MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2: 11:15 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.: Masses for the faithful departed

FROM NOVEMBER 3, 2020 AND DURING THE WHOLE TIME OF THE CONFINEMENT, the Basilique will be open for prayer from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. each day and the nights of adoration will continue.

Rates and conditions

  • Free visit
  • Access to the Basilica is free for all.. Dome and crypt with paying access: contact the basilica.

Opening hours
The Basilica is open every day from 6 am to 10:30 pm (for the visit the last entries are done around 10:15 pm). The Dome (access on the left side of the Basilica): 9am-8:30pm from June to September; 9:30am-7pm from March to April; 10am-5:30pm from November to February.

Exceptional opening

  • January 1st
  • Easter
  • Easter Monday
  • Ascension Day
  • May 1st
  • May 8th
  • Pentecost
  • Pentecost Monday
  • July 14th
  • August 15th
  • November 1st
  • November 11th
  • December 25th
Access
  • Métro - Line   - Station Anvers
  • Bus - 31, 54, 80, 85
  • Funicular
  • Offer adapted to people with disabilities
  • Information on accessibility
    Motor disabilities: a ramp and an elevator are located at 35, rue du Chevalier de la Barre, at the back of the Basilica. Regular opening hours: 9:30 am - 5:30 pm.
Address

Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre

Main entrance: Parvis de la Basilique
75018, Paris (Open from 6 am to 10:30 pm)

Entrance for the Reception of the Nights of Adoration and the EPHREM Reception House: at the back of La Basilique,  35, rue du Chevalier-de-la-Barre, 75018 PARIS

Coordinates Latitude Longitude
Sexagesimal (°, ', ") 48° 53′ 13″ N 2° 20′ 35″ E
Degré décimal (GPS) 48.88664 2.34302
Description complète

The Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur was born of a personal vow made by the philanthropist Alexandre Legentil in January 1871, to atone for the "misfortunes that desolate France and perhaps greater misfortunes that still threaten it".

The political and catholic context of the time

The Franco-Prussian War of 1870, sometimes called the Franco-Prussian War or the War of 1870, was a conflict that pitted France against the German states under Prussia's leadership from July 19, 1870, to January 28, 1871. Emperor Napoleon III, surrounded in the town of Sedan, capitulated on 2 September while a popular uprising in Paris proclaimed the republic. The government remained in Paris surrounded by Prussian troops and had to capitulate on January 26, 1871. France then lost Alsace and Lorraine until 1919.

The recently elected Assembly, with a monarchist majority, along with certain measures implemented by the Assembly or the government, reinforced a climate of unrest within the Parisian National Guard and popular circles. An insurrection broke out in Montmartre on March 18, 1871, and set up an insurrectional authority: the Paris Commune. With the tacit agreement of the Prussians, it was fought by the Assembly and the official government. It was crushed during "Bloody Week" (May 21-28) by the government invested by the National Assembly, which had been withdrawn to Versailles since March 18.

The national vow and the vote of the National Assembly

Alexandre Legentil's strong personality in the Parisian Catholic landscape and his many connections allowed the project to acquire a national dimension. The "personal" wish becomes "national". With his brother-in-law Hubert Rohault de Fleury, a painter, and other Parisian notables, he began the steps that were to lead to the realization of the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur several decades later.

The promoters of the construction of the Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur appealed at the end of 1872 to the "monarchist" National Assembly to have the church recognized as being of public utility. This was in fact the only "legal" way possible to acquire the necessary land, owned by the city and many private individuals. The National Assembly elected in February 1871 to draw up a Constitution then had 396 royalist deputies (out of a total of 686 members) who were largely uncompromising Catholics. After heated debates, the law of public utility was passed on 24 July 1873 by 382 votes to 138, with 160 deputies abstaining. By this vote, the Church could thus acquire the necessary land on the hill of Montmartre.

The Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur construction is frequently associated with the events of the Paris Commune. It is said to have been built to "atone for the crimes" of the Commune of May 1871. The chronology of events does not seem to confirm this thesis which, moreover, seems much more recent.

The financing and committee of the National Vow Work

In 1873, the committee of the Œuvre du Vœu National and the Cardinal of Paris decided that the choice of the architect would be made by competition. Certain elements were imposed: the site (Montmartre), a budget limited to seven million francs, a crypt, and a monumental statue of the Sacred Heart that was highly visible and placed outside.

The Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur is mainly financed by a large number of French people through a national subscription. The faithful are not asked to pay a large sum, but what they can afford. Hubert Rohault de Fleury notably imagined the "Souscription des Pierres" which encourages families, groups, and works to provide the necessary sum for the purchase of a stone, a column, or a chapel. The name, initials, or coat of arms of the donors will be engraved.

The construction of the Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur

On June 16, 1875, the archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Guibert, laid the first stone of the basilica (a pink marble from Bouère). Months were necessary to consolidate the foundations: the underground galleries and the collapses of the ground made it necessary to build 83 shafts, thirty-three meters deep, in order to rest on the solid layer under the clay. In 1878 the construction of the crypt began and in 1881 that of the basilica. The interior of the nave was inaugurated on June 5, 1891.

The new Third Republic, fundamentally anticlerical, wanted to take away the Church's use of the basilica and transform it into a house of the people or a theater. In an effort to calm the situation, the Clemenceau government passed the law of April 13, 1908, putting an end to the confiscation of the Sacré-Coeur, which "became the property of the city of Paris and could not be abandoned unless a new law was passed.

The stained-glass windows installed between 1903 and 1920 were destroyed during the Second World War and replaced by contemporary stained-glass windows. The campanile (lantern tower) which, with the cross that dominates it, stands 91 m high, was finished in 1912, but it was not until 1914 that the entire façade was completed.

The consecration of the church and its elevation to the dignity of a minor basilica, originally planned for October 17, 1914, was postponed because of the outbreak of war. It took place on October 16, 1919, celebrated by Cardinal Vico. The building is officially completed in 1923 with the finishing of the interior decoration, especially the mosaics of the apse. The 1930s saw the beginning of the construction of the annexes but the building was not definitively completed until after the Second World War, whose bombardments destroyed the stained glass windows. In total, the program cost six times more than expected and lasted more than half a century.

Exteriors and the Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur
The basilica is not built according to the traditional basilica plan. It is in the shape of a Greek cross, decorated with four domes. The central dome has a keystone height of 54.94 m and a diameter of 16 meters. Its central dome, 83 m high, was the highest point in Paris before the construction of the Eiffel Tower, which is the Republican counterpart of the basilica. It is surmounted by a skylight formed by a colonnade. A spiral staircase of 237 steps leads to the inner and outer gallery of this dome, the first offering a view of the interior of the church and the second a circular panorama over 30 km on a clear day.

Unlike most churches that traditionally have an East-West orientation, the basilica's orientation is North-South. The choice of this original axis can be explained for a topographical reason, the narrowness of the plateau in this sense, and for a symbolic reason, that of opening the church towards the center of Paris.

Interiors of the Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur
The apsidal conch of the choir (mosaic decorated with the largest mosaic in France by the Émaux de Briare), covers an area of 473.78 m2. It is designed according to the drawing of Luc-Olivier Merson and carried out from 1918 to 1922.

The crypt of the Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur
The crypt, which has the same layout as the church, is one of the curiosities of the basilica.

A wolf's leap, four meters wide, surrounds it and illuminates it, thanks to the windows and oculi pierced in the wall. The central space of the crypt is occupied by the Chapel of the Pietà which contains, in addition to a monumental statue of the Virgin at the foot of the Cross (a work dominating the altar, by Julius Coutan in 1895), tombs linked to the important people who have marked this sacred place (vaults dug under this chapel contain the tombs of Cardinals Guibert and Richard) and the foundation stone of the basilica.

Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur and the ininterrupted prayers 24 hours a day since 1885

The Basilica of the Sacred-Heart of Montmartre (see our other posts on Montmartre) is one of the five minor basilicas of Paris. (Notre Dame of Paris is a Cathedral)

Dedicated to the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the basilica is the "sanctuary of Eucharistic adoration and divine mercy". Since 1885, the faithful - men, women, and children from all walks of life - have been taking turns 24 hours a day to recite a prayer uninterrupted, day and night. This prayer is the mission that the Basilica received at its consecration: a mission of constant intercession for the Church and the world.

Since 1995, at the request of Cardinal Lustiger, Archbishop of Paris, the Congregation of the Benedictine Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre has been responsible for the spiritual and material animation of the Basilica.

Controversies and the beginning of secular France independent of the Church

In 1904, the context was one of the heightened tensions around the question of the separation of the Churches and the French State. The Paris City Council, at the time a fiercely secular majority and hostile to the basilica, reclaimed 5,000 square meters of land near the basilica. It decided to erect a statue of the Chevalier de La Barre, a young French nobleman condemned in 1766 for blasphemy and sacrilege, beheaded and then burned, in the axis of the great portal of the Sacred Heart.

The statue, sculpted by Armand Bloch, was inaugurated on September 3, 1905. A little later, another political act, the rue de La Barre (the address of the basilica is at number 35!), becomes in 1907, by decision of the same city council, the rue du Chevalier-de-La-Barre. In 1926, as a sign of appeasement of the municipality towards the Catholic world, the statue was reinstalled not far away, in Nadar Square, in a place less directly provocative towards the Sacred Heart. It was removed and melted down in 1941. It took sixty years for a new statue to be erected to replace the one destroyed. It was inaugurated on February 24, 2001.

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