Montmartre is a large hill in Paris's 18th arrondissement. It is 130 metres high and gives its name to the surrounding district, part of the Right Bank in the northern section of the city. The historic district was established by the City of Paris in 1995.
Montmartre is primarily known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur on its summit and as a nightclub district. The other, older, church on the hill is Saint Pierre de Montmartre, which claims to be the location at which the Jesuit order of priests was founded.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, during the Belle Époque, many artists had studios or worked in or around Montmartre, including Salvador Dalí, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, Camille Pissarro and Vincent van Gogh. Montmartre is also the setting for several hit films. This site is served by metro line 2 stations of Anvers, Pigalle and Blanche and the line 12 stations of Pigalle, Abbesses, Lamarck - Caulaincourt and Jules Joffrin.
The toponym Mons Martis, Latin for "Mount of Mars", survived into Merovingian times, gallicised as Montmartre, signifying 'mountain of the martyr'; it owes this name to the martyrdom of Saint Denis, who was decapitated on the hill around 250 AD.
The butte owes its particular religious importance to the text entitled Miracles of Saint-Denis, written before 885 by Hilduin, abbot of the monastery of Saint-Denis, which recounted how Saint Denis, a Christian bishop, was decapitated on the hilltop in 250 AD on orders of the Roman prefect Fescennius Sisinius for preaching the Christian faith to the Gallo-Roman inhabitants of Lutetia. According to Hilduin, Denis collected his head and carried it as far as the fontaine Saint-Denis (on modern impasse Girandon), then descended the north slope of the hill, where he died. Hilduin wrote that a church had been built "in the place formerly called Mont de Mars, and then, by a happy change, 'Mont des Martyrs'".
In 1134, king Louis VI purchased the Merovingian chapel and built on the site the church of Saint-Pierre de Montmartre, still standing. He also founded The Royal Abbey of Montmartre, a monastery of the Benedictine order, whose buildings, gardens and fields occupied most of Montmartre. He also built a small chapel, called the Martyrium, at the site where it was believed that Saint Denis had been decapitated. It became a popular pilgrimage site. In the 17th century, a priory called abbaye d'en bas was built at that site, and in 1686 it was occupied by a community of nuns.
The abbey was destroyed in 1790 during the French Revolution, and the convent demolished to make place for gypsum mines. The church of Saint-Pierre was saved. At the place where the chapel of the Martyrs was located (now 11 rue Yvonne-Le Tac), an oratory was built in 1855.
In 1790, Montmartre was located just outside the limits of Paris. That year, under the revolutionary government of the National Constituent Assembly, it became the commune of Montmartre, with its town hall located on place du Tertre, site of the former abbey. The main businesses of the commune were wine making, stone quarries and gypsum mines.
Montmartre remained outside of the city limits of Paris until January 1, 1860, when it was annexed to the city along with other communities (faubourgs) surrounding Paris, and became part of the 18th arrondissement of Paris.
The Basilica of the Sacré Cœur was built on Montmartre from 1876 to 1919, financed by public subscription as a gesture of expiation for the suffering of the city during the Franco-Prussian War and the 1871 Paris Commune. Its white dome is a highly visible landmark in the city, and just below it, artists still set up their easels each day amidst the tables and colourful umbrellas of the place du Tertre.
By the 19th century, the butte was famous for its cafés, guinguettes with public dancing, and cabarets. Le Chat Noir at 84 boulevard de Rochechouart was founded in 1881 by Rodolphe Salis, and became a popular haunt for writers and poets. The Moulin Rouge at 94 boulevard de Clichy was founded in 1899 by Joseph Oller and Carles Zidler; it became the birthplace of the French cancan.
Artists who performed in the cabarets of Montmartre included Yvette Guilbert, Marcelle Lender, Aristide Bruant, La Goulue, Georges Guibourg, Mistinguett, Fréhel, Jane Avril, Damia. During the Belle Époque from 1872 to 1914, many notable artists lived and worked in Montmartre, where the rents were low and the atmosphere congenial.
Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani and other artists lived and worked in a building called Le Bateau-Lavoir during the years 1904–1909, where Picasso painted one of his most important masterpieces, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Several noted composers, including Erik Satie, lived in the neighbourhood. Most of the artists left after the outbreak of World War I, the majority of them going to the Montparnasse quarter.
The last of the bohemian Montmartre artists was Gen Paul (1895–1975), born in Montmartre and a friend of Utrillo. Paul's calligraphic expressionist lithographs, sometimes memorializing picturesque Montmartre itself, owe a lot to Raoul Dufy.
Montmartre is an officially designated historic district with limited development allowed in order to maintain its historic character.
A funicular railway, the Funiculaire de Montmartre, operated by the RATP, ascends the hill from the south while the Montmartre bus circles the hill.
Downhill to the southwest is the red-light district of Pigalle. That area is, today, largely known for a wide variety of stores specializing in instruments for rock music. There are also several concert halls, also used for rock music. The actual Moulin Rouge theatre is also in Pigalle, next to Blanche métro station.