It's hard to not feel as though you're climbing up to heaven when you visit Sacred Heart Basilica, the white castle in the sky, perched atop Montmartre. The French government commissioned it in 1873 to symbolize the return of self-confidence after the devastating years of the Commune and Franco-Prussian War; and architect Paul Abadie employed elements from Romanesque and Byzantine styles when designing it—a mélange many critics dismissed as gaudy. Construction lasted
until World War I, and the church was finally consecrated in 1919.
Many people come to Sacré-Coeur to admire the superlative view from the top of its 271-foot-high dome. If you opt to skip the climb up the spiral staircase, the view from the front steps is still ample compensation for the trip.
Inside, expect another visual treat—namely the massive golden mosaic set high above the choir. Created in 1922 by Luc-Olivier Merson, Christ in Majesty depicts Christ with a golden heart and outstretched arms, surrounded by various figures, including the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc. It remains one of the largest mosaics of its kind. Also worth noting are the seemingly endless vaulted arches in the basilica's crypt; the portico's bronze doors, decorated with biblical scenes; and the stained-glass windows, which were installed in 1922, destroyed by a bombing during World War II (there were miraculously no deaths), and later rebuilt in 1946. In the basilica's 262 foot-high campanile hangs La Savoyarde, one of the world's heaviest bells, weighing about 19 tons.
The best time to visit Sacré-Coeur is early morning or early evening, and preferably not on a Sunday, when the crowds are thick. If you're coming to worship, there are daily masses.
Photographers angling for the perfect shot of the church should aim for a clear blue-sky day or arrive at dusk, when the pink sky plays nicely with the lights of the basilica.
To avoid the steps, take the funicular, which costs one métro ticket each way.
Pl. du Parvis-du-Sacré-Coeur, Paris, 75018, France
Nov 9, 2008
Somewhat unusual looking church, vaguely Byzantine in appearance. OK inside, the mosaic is the most interesting. The best part of it is the view from the dome, an involved climb that's not for the claustrophobic. Arguably the best view in the city from this dome.
Oct 12, 2007
i had the very wonderful chance of staying near there so i got to see it multiple times and it was worth the climb up the stairs every time
Jan 31, 2006
Try to go on a clear day for a great view of the city. Take the tram (cost 1 metro ticket)up to the church which is free, then walk down. Be sure to check out the side streets on your way down. Interesting shops with great deals. Watch out for pickpockets while you're window shopping. great deals
Feb 19, 2003
swing by here to check it out. The exterior is lovely; you can tour it in and out within a half hour, so if you are exploring the shops and quaint streets of Montemarte, consider stopping by. Note that just around the corner is the wild, mad world of Salvadore Dali...an excellent adventure as well.