Ten Fun Facts about Sacré-Cœur Basilica

Suzy Rhodes Wed, 07/29/2015 - 21:42

France Paris

The Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre, or Sacré-Coeur, is a major landmark in Paris. The site has a complex history from pagan times through the Middle Ages and French Revolution and is now a major cultural center in this popular neighborhood.

Sacré-Cœur Basilica

1. Prehistory

Montmartre, the hill on which the basilica stands, has been a sacred site since pagan times. Druids are thought to have worshipped there, and the ancient Romans built temples to Mars and Mercury.

2. Names

Montmartre was originally named "Mons Martis," meaning "Mount of Mars." This was later Christianized to "Montmartre," or "Mount of the Martyr." "Sacré-Coeur" is a reference to the sacred heart of Jesus.

3. St. Denis

The first Christian chapel was built on Montmartre around 475 A.D., in honor of the martyred St. Denis, who was the first bishop of Paris.

4. Martyrs

Besides St. Denis, Montmartre became associated with Christian martyrs in general, and was a popular destination for pilgrims in the Middle Ages.

5. Revolution

In 1792, during the French Revolution, the abbey which had grown up around the chapel was destroyed, and the inhabitants dispersed. The Abbess was eventually executed.

6. Paris Commune

During the Paris Commune of 1871, hundreds of commune members hid in the chalk mines near the Sacré-Coeur. They were killed when the government dynamited the exits, adding to the hill's body count.

7. Design

In the 1800s a contest was held to choose a designer for the modern basilica. The winner, Paul Abadie, used a unique style drawing on Roman and Byzantine influences.

8. White Stone

The Sacré-Coeur is constructed of stone from Château-Landon, which is known for it's high content of calcite. In damp weather calcite leaches out of the stone, keeping the appearance of the monument chalky white.

9. View of Paris

The top of the dome is open to the public, and is the second-highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower. Many tourists visit just for the panoramic views.

10. Night Life

On warm evenings, Parisians and visitors gather on the steps of the Sacré-Coeur to enjoy the view of the city. Many bring instruments, so there is often live music.

Source: http://traveltips.usatoday.com