Want to learn more about Sacre Coeur Basilica in Paris? This article will show you all the interesting facts about Sacre Coeur you may not have known before!
One of the prominent landmarks in Paris is the Sacre Coeur basilica. Located at the top of Montmartre Hill, this grand landmark towers over the beautiful City of Light.
The basilica attracts millions of visitors each year. Many come to devote themselves to God and even more come to admire the architectural beauty and also take in the stunning views of Paris.
But how much do people really know about this iconic landmark?
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Turns out, there’s a rich and complex history beneath the Sacre Coeur’s white facade that may surprise you.
Whether you’re a believer or a history enthusiast, these interesting facts about Sacre Coeur basilica will certainly astonish you.
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WHERE TO STAY
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Apartment Rental: Résidence Charles Floquet (9.1)
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- Prepare your trip extensively with this Paris Travel guidebook.
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- Book this private transfer from CDG airport to Paris to avoid the hustle of figuring out how to get to Paris.
16 Amazing Facts About Sacre Coeur
From religious and political historical events to its architectural details, here are some of the interesting facts about Sacre Coeur you probably didn’t know.
1. The Sacre Coeur Is the Second Most Visited Church in Paris
Despite being the youngest church in Paris, the Sacre Coeur has gained a reputation of being the second most visited church in the city.
The Sacre Coeur basilica welcomes around 10 million visitors annually, second only to the famous Notre Dame Cathedral (before it was closed due to a fire).
There are several reasons why the church is so popular, including its strategic location, its awe-inspiring architecture, and the spectacular view surrounding it.
Even though Sacre Coeur’s construction plan only came up in 1870, the site where it stands has long been a place for devotion. It was said that the immense height of the hill made believers feel closer to heaven.
Long before Christianity even made its way to Europe, the Montmarte hill was already a sacred site for the Pagans. Then, after the Romans invaded Paris, they built temples dedicated to two gods, Mercury and Mars.
It was only after the Roman Empire adopted Christianity that the hill became a home for various churches.
The name Montmartre literally means “mountain of martyrs.” It was named such to honor the martyred St. Denis, who also happened to be the first Bishop and the saint patron of Paris.
According to the legend, Saint-Denis and his companions, Rustique and Eleuthère were beheaded there by the Romans.
But after the execution, St. Denis simply picked up his severed head and walked away while delivering a sermon on repentance.
However, St. Denis himself is not buried on the hill. Instead, he’s buried in the location where his body stopped walking and dropped dead.
Today, it’s marked by a small shrine called St. Denys-la-Chapelle which was later expanded into Basilica of Saint-Denis.
During the Sacre Coeur’s construction, most churches were dedicated and named after Mary, the Mother of Christ. However, the Sacre Coeur was an outlier as it was devoted to Jesus Christ himself.
Sacre Coeur’s name literally means “sacred heart,” representing his divine love for humanity and the sacrifice he made to atone for their sins.
5. It’s the Second-Highest Point in the City
Did you know that the Sacre Coeur is the second-highest point in Paris? Standing at 213 meters above sea level, this church is only second to the iconic Eiffel Tower itself which is 300 m tall.
For this reason, many people come to the church not only to adore its architecture but also to observe the spectacular view.
You can get a great vantage point even at the bottom of the basilica. However, if you have the energy for it, don’t hesitate to climb up to the church’s dome and get the best views of Paris.
The construction of the Sacre Coeur was financed by Parisians, private donations, and various parishes across France.
It took no less than 7 million Francs to complete the construction. It was truly a project by the people, for the people.
In fact, part of the reason why the basilica’s construction took so long was that it took quite some time to amass the donation.
And as a sign of gratitude, the names of the generous people who funded the construction have been immortalized through engravings across the church’s walls.
The grand church was certainly not built in one night. However, people may not realize that it took such a long time to finish due to various hindrances and difficulties.
The construction started in 1875 and the basilica was completed in 1914.
Unfortunately, the basilica could not be consecrated right after its completion due to World War I. The Sacre Coeur was only consecrated after the war ended in 1919.
8. 7 Architects Helped with the Construction of the Sacre Coeur
Considering the fact that the church’s construction took 39 years, it’s no surprise that it needed the help of more than one architect, 7 to be exact.
The original architect of the project was Paul Abadie who won the bid among 77 other architects.
Unfortunately, Abadie died in 1884, long before the basilica was even remotely completed. So, 6 other architects stepped in over time to finish his fantastic work.
The Sacre Coeur has a unique Romano-Byzantine style architectural style that’s uncommon among other churches from its period.
This was due to Paul Abadie’s fascination with the of Romano-Byzantine aesthetic. The result was a majestic yet not an excessively decadent design that still awes visitors to this day.
10. The Sacre Coeur Was Built by the People, for the People
The people of France built the Sacre Coeur basilica for two reasons. First, it was part of a National Vow to construct a church if Paris was left untouched during the Franco-Prussian War.
However, while the city escaped untouched, the French army was defeated. Thus, the Sacre Coeur was built to fulfill the aforementioned vow while raising the people’s morale.
It was believed that this basilica’s construction also helped wash away the sins the French committed during the Revolution era.
As a church of martyred saints, it’s only natural that the Sacre Coeur is guarded by two saints. They are immortalized in the form of two statues, riding their horses proudly atop the church’s entrance.
King Louis IX stands on the left. Also known as Louis the Saint, he was also the only French king to be canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church.
Meanwhile, the statue on the right depicts Joan of Arc, the brave heroine who took part in several military campaigns during the Hundred Years’ War.
13. Sacre Coeur Is Home to One of the Biggest Mosaics in the World
One of the other fun facts about Sacre Coeur is that it houses one of the biggest mosaics in the world.
Aside from its outstanding exterior, the interior of the Sacre Coeur is equally stunning.
The church is home to a colossal mosaic that measures 475 square meters, extending over the apse ceiling.
The mosaic depicts the risen Christ in a white garment extending his arms with a golden heart.
This mosaic is called “Christ in Glory,” and it was made in 1923 to represent the sacred heart of Jesus Christ.
It remains the largest mosaic in France and one of the biggest in the world until today.
14. It’s the Home of One of the Largest and Heaviest Bells in the World
Aside from a grand mosaic, the basilica also has one of the largest bells in the world.
The bell, known as La Savoyarde, measures 3m in diameter and 9.6m in circumference. Weighing almost 19 tons, the bell had to be carried to the basilica by a team of 28 horses.
And due to its grandiose size, the sound it produces is so loud that it can be heard from 10km away.
Even after the Sacre Coeur closes its doors each night, the prayers inside the church never cease.
Since 1 August 1885, the basilica has been hosting an uninterrupted silent prayer. Also called the Night adoration, this tradition has continued non-stop, even during the 1944 Paris bombing and the C*vid-19 crisis.
To join the night adoration, you’ll need to pay a small amount of contribution and register between 8.30 PM and 9.45 PM.
It’s recommended to register 48 hours in advance since the availability is limited.
Did you know that you cannot only visit the Sacre Coeur, but also spend the night there? This is certainly one of the Sacre Coeur basilica facts not many people know about.
As mentioned earlier, the basilica hosts an uninterrupted prayer session every night. Any visitor who’s willing to join the night adoration for at least an hour can spend the night inside the basilica.
After registering to join the night adoration, visitors are given a night’s access to the dormitory. Visitors can rest and sleep until a nun wakes them up at night to pray.
FAQs On The Facts About Sacre Coeur
To give you a quick rundown on the Sacre Coeur Paris facts, here are a few frequently asked questions about this landmark.
How old is the Sacre-Coeur?
Since it was constructed in 1875, the Basilica is 147 years old as of 2022.
How long did it take to build Sacre-Coeur?
It took 39 years to construct Sacre Coeur.
Can you climb Sacre Coeur?
Yes, you can climb Sacre Coeur to its dome to get stunning views of Paris.
How many steps does Sacré-Coeur have?
Sacre Coeur has 300 stairs from the base of the church to its dome.
Final Thoughts on the Sacre Coeur interesting facts
And that concludes my list of the 16 interesting facts about the Sacre Coeur. Built by the people of Paris as a political and cultural monument, the basilica is the perfect symbol of both devotion and solidarity.
With such a rich history and beautiful visage, it’s no wonder that the Sacre Coeur draws millions of people to its doorsteps every year.
I hope that these Sacre Coeur facts have inspired you to add the charming basilica to your Paris bucket list during your next trip to France!
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