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Why you should visit the Sacré Coeur Basilica in Montmartre

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article published on 20/04/2022

You are a Parisian or a visitor to the French capital and would you like to visit the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur? Whether you are alone, with family or friends, the visit of this religious monument is undoubtedly a basic in Paris. For your guided tour of Paris, we detail all the information you need to know about this Parisian building in order to best prepare your visit. 

The Sacré-Cœur Basilica: a national vow

Located at the top of the Montmartre Hill, in the Clignancourt district of the 18th arrondissement of Paris, the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur of Montmartre – known as the National Vow – is a Parisian religious building that welcomes nearly 11 million visitors and pilgrims each year, placing it just behind the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris in the ranking of the most visited Parisian religious monuments. 

In December 1870, the project of making a vow to build a church in Paris was born, following the military defeat of France by the Prussian army. For Alexandre Legentil and Hubert Rohault de Fleury, the French misfortunes were due to spiritual rather than political causes. This is why this church should be dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as a sign of penitence (for infidelities and sins committed), trust, hope and faith. After approval of this national wish by Cardinal Guibert, Archbishop of Paris, a law of the National Assembly declared the Basilica to be of public utility in 1873, thus allowing it to be allocated land. 

A competition was then launched to choose the best project for the construction of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Among the many candidates, the architect Paul Abadie won the competition in 1874 with his project for a Romanesque-Byzantine basilica. A year later, the first stone was laid. The work was financed by donations from all over France, the names of which were inscribed in the stone. 

No less than 7 architects succeeded one another in building this religious edifice, which was officially completed in 1923. The Sacred Heart, built in the shape of a Greek cross, has four domes and a central dome rising to a height of 83 metres which contains the Savoyarde, one of the most impressive bells in the world. 

A must-see cultural visit in Paris

A visit to the Sacré-Coeur Basilica is undoubtedly a must-do during your stay in Paris. To learn more, we invite you to discover the village of Montmartre and its Sacré-Cœur by downloading on your smartphone our guided tour of Montmartre, a unique audio-guide that will allow you to discover independently the historical facts and anecdotes about this district and its famous religious monument.

The Basilica

You do not need to book tickets in advance to enter the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the entry is free. There are no guided tours, as a sign of respect for those who wish to pray and meditate. 

Inside, a ceiling decorated with a giant mosaic overlooks the room. It is one of the largest mosaics in the world. Measuring 475 square metres, it depicts the risen Christ in glory, dressed in white, with a golden heart. Outside, on the façade of the building, you can see a statue of Christ placing his hand on his heart, which is quite symbolic. Indeed, the Sacré-Coeur means the Heart of Christ. 

During your visit, the reception desk or the bookshop offers themed tours (animals, angels, symbols, scriptures, prayers and characters). They allow you to take a different look at this sacred place of prayer, by deciphering the meaning of the various mosaics, sculptures, stained glass windows, etc. 

The Dome

If the skies are clear during your visit to Paris, we recommend you climb up to the Dome to admire one of the most beautiful 360° views of Paris. The entrance to the Dome is outside the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, through the moat on the left side, at the bottom of the stairs. To reach the exceptional panorama, you will have to climb about 300 steps, without a lift. For a long time, the Dome was the highest point in the French capital… until the Eiffel Tower was erected! 

The Crypt

Currently inaccessible to visitors, the Crypt has hosted until 1st September 2021 a vast biblical scenography to celebrate the jubilee of 100 years of the consecration of the basilica. Its entrance is located in the same place as the Dome, on the left side of the Sacred Heart. A real curiosity, it features an impressive statue of the Virgin Mary in the central chapel, better known as the Pietà Chapel. The Crypt has no less than 14 side chapels, evenly distributed to the east and west. It is also the place where the very first stone of the basilica can be seen. 

The Savoyarde

Nestled in the heart of the Sacré-Coeur campanile in the Romanesque-Byzantine style, the Savoyarde – whose real name is Françoise Marguerite du Sacré-Cœur de Jésus – is one of the largest bells in the world, weighing nearly 19 tons. Its tonality, that of the high C, makes its particularity. It is owed to Monseigneur Leuillieux, archbishop of Chambéry, who officially launched the subscription in January 1889 to cast a bell dedicated to the basilica’s campanile. The official contribution of Savoy to France for the National Vow, the Savoyarde was pulled by 28 horses to reach the hilltop in October 1895. Since 1969, four other bells have been added above the drone from the church of Saint-Roch. 

Prepare your visit to the Sacré-Cœur in Paris

Before venturing into the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, we suggest that you prepare your visit in advance in order to optimise your stay in Paris. We provide you with all the practical information you need to know to discover this religious monument in the 18th arrondissement. 

Price

Entrance to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart is free for all visitors. However, if you wish to visit the Dome and the Crypt, you will have to pay a fee of 6€ per person for a free visit of this part of the monument. Tickets are only available on site. 

Opening hours

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre is open every day of the year from 6a.m. to 10:30p.m. 

The Dome is accessible every day from 10a.m. to 7p.m. 

At present, it is not possible to visit the Crypt, which remains closed to the public. 

It is possible to attend a mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Masses are held every day of the week. Please consult the calendar of religious services on the official website of the monument for the exact times. 

Access

Address: 35 rue du Chevalier de la Barre – 75018 Paris

If you intend to visit the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, located on the Montmartre Hill, during your stay in Paris, there are many ways to get there:

Good to know: for the price of a metro ticket, you can take the Funiculaire de Montmartre which links the bottom of the Butte to the Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre in 1 minute 30 seconds. For the less athletic or the elderly, the journey allows you to climb the huge stairs of the Butte, which consist of 222 steps, quickly and safely.


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