The Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur (Basilique du Sacré-Cœur in French) is one of the symbols of Paris, towering unmistakably from the top of Montmartre hill with its gleaming white stone.
One of the most scenic views of the city can be admired from the top of the hill and the Basilica boasts a unique architecture: its snow-white dome is world-famous and is one of the most visited and photographed sites in Paris.
A destination for believers and pilgrims, the basilica was erected at the heart of the revolt triggered by the Paris Commune, to put an end to a violent and bloody page in the city’s history and to atone for the sins and massacres of the civil war.
In reality, the eternal struggle between monarchist Catholics and secular republicans prevented its consecration for a long time and only took place in 1919.
Having miraculously escaped Allied bombardment in 1944, the basilica is built with a special type of travertine that releases calcium carbonate in contact with rain, making it even more resplendent and immune to the wear and tear of air pollution.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart was designed by architect Paul Adabie in Romanesque-Byzantine style and towers over the Paris skyline with its unmistakable white silhouette. In fact, it is the tallest building in Paris, after the Eiffel Tower.
The climb to the top of the dome is not to be missed: you will have to climb no less than 300 steps, but from the top of its 83 metres, you will be able to admire a breathtaking panorama encompassing the whole city of Paris.
The interior of the Basilica, on the other hand, is not particularly interesting, except for the immense mosaic in the choir, which depicts the risen Christ, dressed in white, with his arms wide open, revealing a heart of gold.
The real heart of the Basilica, however, is its famous 237-step terraced staircase. Tourists in search of iconic and Instagrammable photographs, street performers, musicians and souvenir sellers gather here. Also, at the base of the staircase, in Place Saint-Pierre, is a wonderful vintage carousel in perfect working order. Many will remember it from a famous scene in the cult film The Fabulous World of Amelie.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart has been nicknamed by Parisians, The Great Meringue, because of its recognisable whiteness in the middle of the city.
Its shimmering whiteness is due to the material from which it was built. In fact, the stone used for its construction, the Chateau-Landon, when in contact with rainwater gives off lime, a white substance that when it rains makes the Basilica glow, making it even whiter.
It also houses one of the largest and heaviest bells in the world, weighing almost 20 tonnes. It took more than 20 horses to transport the Savoyarde to the building site.
Finally, if you look to the sides of the basilica, you will notice two statues of armed figures on horseback: these are Joan of Arc and King Louis IX, the only sovereign to have been made a saint by the Catholic Church.
There is no direct access to the Basilica. To get there, you will have to take the metro or bus and walk up the hill or take the Montpmartre funicular or the Montmartrobus.
City Card allow you to save on public transport and / or on the entrances to the main tourist attractions.