Basilica of the Sacré Cœur - view from the Eiffel tower

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Basilica of the Sacré Cœur (The Basilica of Sacred Heart) is the Roman church located on Montnartre hill, the highest point of Paris (129 metres above sea level). This site is traditionally associated with the city’s patron St. Denis, the first Parisian bishop in the 3rd century. It was dedicated to the Heart of Christ.

It dates back to 19th century. Its designer Paul Abadie died in 1884, when only the foundation has been laid. There were another six architects who succeeded him until the time basilica was finished. The foundation stone of this church designed Romano-Byzantine architectural style was laid in 1875. It was built to mark the foundation of the new French state, with the direct involvement of the newly established Third French Republic. It was also meant to be the monument to mark the memory of French who lost their lives in Franco-Prussian War and its aftermath, the Commune in 1871. Its construction lasted until 1914 and it was opened for worship just in 1919 – on 16 October, after the World War I (ironically, it was seen as French revenge for previous Prussia’s defeat of France). The doctrine of the Sacred Heart was promulgated by Pope Pius IX in 1856. The work was financed by gifts, often modest, from all over France. The names of the donors are carved in the stone.

There are 33 metres deep underpinning pits serving as pillars. Without them, the basilica would sink into the clay. The basilica is built of a frost-resistant travertine – Château-Landon (Seine-et-Marne) stone that constantly weathers out its calcite, so that it bleaches with age to a chalky whiteness.

The Basilica is 85 metres wide and 35 metres long. The Dome is 83 metres high, with the 55 metres high and 16 metres wide Cupola.

The iconography of Basilica is distinctly nationalistic. It has the triple-arched portico with two equestrian bronze statues of France’s national saints Joan of Arc and King Saint Louis IX made by H. Lefebvre. 19 tons heavy bell cast in Annecy in 1895 – the Savoyarde has also a nationalistic program (Savoy was attached to France in 1860).

The interior is also designed in Romano-Byzantine style. The Blessed Sacrament (a consecrated host) has been continually on display in a monstrance above the high altar since 1885. The great mosaic of Christ in Majesty, created between 1900 and 1922 is one of the world’s largest. The stained-glass windows were installed between 1903 and 1920, but they were destroyed in 1944. They were restored in 1946.

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.
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