Basilica of the Sacred Heart- “I will lift my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.”-Psalm 121:1
We began our second day in France with a hike up the hill to Sacré-Cœur Basilica (Basilica of the Sacred Heart) and its local town. Construction began in 1875 and finished in 1914. The majestic white basilica is built at the summit of the highest point in Paris: Montmartre. There was a competition for architects to design the Catholic site. Paul Abadie beat out over 75 architects by being the chosen winner and unfortunately died before the construction was completed. The main intention for its construction was for Catholic reconstruction. Catholics had greatly suffered from Napoleon, the French Revolutionary War, and the short lived Socialist Government. It’s corporal purpose was to serve as a symbol of rebuilding Catholicism in France. It’s spiritual purpose was to offer spiritual reparation for the decline in morals during the past 100 years and to pacify for crimes committed against Catholicism during the revolutionary years.
Montmarte the hill in which it was built has an interesting religious history. It was first used by the Druids for the worship of nature, then the Romans used it for worship of Mars and Mercury, then eventually with France’s widespread Catholic conversion it became a location of abbeys, churches, and convents. Yet today its most famous sight is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. France has a special connection with the Catholic devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was in France where Christ appeared in a series of apparitions to a French nun, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, where He requested in 1673 for increased devotion to His Sacred Heart. Since then French Catholicism has had a endearing close connection with this form of veneration thus the name of the cathedral.
View of Paris from atop the hill
Along with its religious history it has an interesting artistic history as well. Many famous artists have worked or lived around the town surrounding Montmarte such as Van Goah, Salvador Dali, Monet, Picasso, and Modigliani. It is also served as a filming location for many films, most notably Amelie.
It was a beautiful morning. We climbed all the way to the top side by side with tourists and pilgrims alike. Sadly, even religious sites are not even free of determined pickpocketers. At the base of the hill were many aggressive trinket sellers but once security came they couldn’t get out of there fast enough. At the top of the hill is an amazing view of Paris. Once at the top we explored the top of the hill and its local town. Artists were painting, people were enjoying their meals at cafes, and the town was bustling.
Once we finished with our quick tour of the town we headed down the hill’s narrow and winding streets hill where it wasn’t as busy. We quickly went from the sacred to the secular. At the bottom of the hill we were greeted by the bright red sight of the Moulin Rouge. The infamous cabaret, known for its sensuality and debauchery, it was the precursor to many of the risque shows today and is believed to be the place where the Can-Can was first performed (or at least evolved from). From there on we were headed back to the spiritual to the famous Notre Dame Cathedral~~~à bientôt