The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica and often simply Sacré-Cœur, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Paris.
A popular landmark, the basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. Sacré-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 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.
The Sacré-Cœur Basilica was designed by Paul Abadie. Construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. It was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919.
The inspiration for Sacré Cœur's design originated on September 4, 1870, the day of the proclamation of the Third Republic, with a speech by Bishop Fournier attributing the defeat of French troops during the Franco-Prussian War to a divine punishment after "a century of moral decline" since the French Revolution, in the wake of the division in French society that arose in the decades following that revolution, between devout Catholics and legitimist royalists on one side, and democrats, secularists, socialists and radicals on the other. This schism in the French social order became particularly pronounced after the 1870 withdrawal of the French military garrison protecting the Vatican in Rome to the front of the Franco-Prussian War by Napoleon III, the secular uprising of the Paris Commune of 1870-1871, and the subsequent 1871 defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War.
The overall style of the structure shows a free interpretation of Romano-Byzantine features, an unusual architectural vocabulary at the time, which was a conscious reaction against the neo-Baroque excesses of the Palais Garnier, which was cited in the competition. Many design elements of the basilica symbolise nationalist themes: the portico, with its three arches, is adorned by two equestrian statues of French national saints Joan of Arc (1927) and King Saint Louis IX, both executed in bronze by Hippolyte Lefebvre; and the nineteen-ton Savoyarde bell (one of the world's heaviest), cast in 1895 in Annecy, alludes to the annexation of Savoy in 1860.
Sacré-Cœur is built of travertine stone quarried in Château-Landon (Seine-et-Marne), France. This stone constantly exudes calcite, which ensures that the basilica remains white even with weathering and pollution.
A mosaic in the apse, entitled Christ in Majesty, created by Luc-Olivier Merson, is among the largest in the world.
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.
The basilica is home to a large and very fine pipe organ built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll for a private home in Biarritz, composed of 109 ranks and 78 speaking stops spread across four 61-note manuals and the 32-note pedalboard, spread across three expressive divisions; 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 to the instrument in Sheffield's Albert Hall, destroyed by fire in 1937. However, when installed in Paris in 1905 by Cavaillé-Coll's successor and son-in-law, Charles Mutin, it lost its ornate case for a much plainer one.
The Basilica is accessible by bus. Buses 30, 31, 80, and 85 can be taken to the bottom of the hill of the Basilica.
Line 12 of the metro can be taken to Jules Joffrin station and visitors can then change to the Montmartrobus and disembark at Place du Tertre. Line 2 or 12 of the metro can be taken to Pigalle station where visitors can 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.
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 18:00 in the winter.
The use of cameras and video recorders is forbidden inside the Basilica.