Sacré Coeur is a modern church, started in 1870 and completed in 1914. It is best known for its beautiful white domes which grace the Paris skyline. It is not a Cathedral, but a Basilica. It is located at the summit of the hill of Montmartre.
Montmartre was a little village on the outskirts of the city of Paris until it was discovered by artists in the nineteenth century.
Montmartre is one of the few hills in
Paris, and the views from the church square are magnificent. In
to the Eiffel Tower, Sacré Coeur is the second highest point in Paris.
You can climb up to the top of the main dome for a small fee. The walls and ceilings of the Basilica are decorated in beautiful mosaics and frescoes.
|However you want to
arrive at the Basilica, you have to climb the steep hill of Montmartre. The streets
are steep, winding and narrow. In fact, most streets are linked
to each other by steep steps (see the picture on the left) which
makes it easier and quicker for people on foot.
By car, you can reach Sacré Coeur
through a narrow one way street which winds through the old houses
to the top of the hill.
You can take the funicular railway
which travels up the steep hill side, and which is part of the Métro
system. There are gardens and parks on the hill side, but these
are closed at dusk
The train arrives
Here you can see the special funicular
railway that runs for the last part of the journey up the steep
slope to Sacré Coeur. Although the track is on a steep slope,
the carriage is specially designed to remain horizontal. The cost to take the Funicular Railway
is the regular ticket price on the Métro, but it is worth
the trip, since there are excellent views through the windows on
the journey up.
People argue about the origin of the name Montmartre. Originally, the Romans had a temple built to the god Mars on the top of the hill and called it Mons Martius. (Mars Hill).
The Christian, Saint Denis met an unhappy end when he was beheaded on the hill top, in front of the temple, for his Christian beliefs in the 4th century.
||Legend says that he picked up his head and carried it to the bottom of the hill to a spot where he was eventually buried. The picture shows him carrying his head down the hill.
Christians changed the name to Mont du Martyre or Martyr's
Hill. You can see a big fountain with a statue of St. Denis carrying his head in a park near Sacré Coeur. St. Denis was later made the patron saint of France.
So it's up to you to decide whether Montmartre comes from the Latin Mons Martius or the French Mont du Martyre!
Montmartre still retains its village
qualities. Old houses jostle together in its narrow lanes. There are little shops and cafés which add to the "village" feel of the area. There is even a vineyard on the slopes of the hill!
Walking down the slopes, you will come across the carefully preserved windmills that once worked on the city hillslopes.
In the 19th century, artists liked the quality of light on this hill, out of the smoke, grime and noise of the centre of Paris. Many famous painters lived and worked here, Van Gogh, Lautrec, Seurat, Monet etc.
This windmill was made very famous by the painter Renoir during the 19th century. The Moulin de la Galette was a café amusement centre, catering for the ordinary people of Paris where Sunday afternoon dances were held, in the still rural area of Montmartre.
Renoir painted his models, their families and his artist friends enjoying their Sunday afternoon in the shade of the trees. The café got its name of "galette" after the pancakes or galettes which were its speciality.
This modern café has adapted the name, but seems to be just a boulangerie and pâtisserie.
still the haunt of artists but today these are painters who provide
the tourist market with souvenirs.
The Place du Tertre just behind Sacré Coeur comes to life with artists' easels during the afternoons.
It is also reputed to be the place in Paris where you are most likely to have your pocket picked .... so be careful when you visit!
The streets surrounding Sacré
Coeur and Montmartre come to life in the evening when the night clubs a nd bars open. The police presence
keeps a watchful eye. The Place Pigalle has a reputation for being the "red light" district of Paris.
Close by is the Moulin Rouge, the high class
night club, with world class dancing and shows.The Moulin Rouge is located in Montmartre, at the foot of the hill.