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Basilica of the Sacré Coeur

The Basilica of the Sacré Coeur (Sacred Heart) is a Parisian Roman Catholic church and landmark, crowning the butte Montmartre ('Montmartre hill'), the highest point in Paris.

Basilica of Sacré Coeur
''Dedicated to the Sacred Heart,
the Basilica is visible all over Paris.

The nineteenth century church was designed by the architect Paul Abadie (who died in 1884, when only the foundations had been laid) in the Romano-Byzantine architectural style. Its foundation stone was laid in 1875, and was built with the direct involvement of the Third French Republic to mark the foundation of the new French state whose constitutional laws were enacted that year. It also was intended as a public monument to mark the memory of the many French citizens who lost their lives in the Franco-Prussian War and its aftermath, the Commune of 1871. However it was not completed until 1914 and not officially opened for worship until 1919 after the end of the First World War, which ironically was seen by many French people as revenge for Germany's¹ defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War.

The site is traditionally associated with the beheading of the city's patron, Saint Denis, in the 3rd century. Legend says that upon being slain, the bishop Denis picked up his severed head and carried it to the top of the hill.

More recently, during the Commune of 1871, hundreds of Communards hid in the chalk mines of the butte Montmartre, and were forever imprisoned inside when the government troops dynamited the exits.

The basilica was paid for by national subscription. Its iconography is distinctly nationalistic: the triple-arched portico is surmounted by two bronze equestrian statues of France's national saints, Joan of Arc and King Saint Louis IX (by H. Lefebvre). Even the great bell, the Savoyarde, has a nationalist program, Savoy having been attached to France as recently as 1860. Cast in Annecy in 1895, it is one of the world's heaviest bells, at 19 tons.

Sacré Coeur is built of Chateau-Landon (Seine-et-Marne) stone, a frost-resistant travertine that constantly weathers out its calcite, so that it bleaches with age to a chalky whiteness.

Since 1885, when it was partially built, the Blessed Sacrament (a consecrated host which Catholics believe is turned into the body and blood of Jesus Christ during a Mass) has been continually on display in a monstrance above the high altar. Perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has continued uninterrupted in the Basilica since 1885.

The mosaic of Christ in Majesty in the apse is one of the world's largest.

The doctrine of the Sacred Heart was promulgated by Pope Pius IX in 1856,at the urgent entreaties of the French bishops.



¹ Germany as a state did not come into existence until 1871, but as most of the states in the then North German Confederation participated in the war before forming the German Empire in the aftermath of the victory, the war, though officially fought by Prussia, is seen as a German war.

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