The official name is Basilique du Sacre Coeur, translated into Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris. It is a Roman Catholic basilica which has been a popular landmark in Paris. The basilica is located at the highest point of Paris city at the summit of the butte Montmartre. It also serves as both political and cultural symbol of national penance for the rebellious surrounding neighborhood, referring to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which is a popular symbol for loving and sympathetic Christ. The basilica started to be build in 1874 and was finished in 1914.
The History of Basilique du Sacre Coeur
As it was said earlier, the basilica was built due to the division in French society at that time. There was a class clash between Roman Catholics side and the other side which was filled in with democrats, socialists, legitimist royalists, secularists, and radicals decades after the French Revolution. The clash then turned into a war, known as Franco-Prussian War, and took lives of 58,000. An idea to build a basilica to honor these lives came up and a construction order was finalized on July 24, 1873.
A competition then was held to choose a winning design for the basilica. Paul Abadie was the architect who won the competition. The first stone was cast in 1875. There were some attempts in halting the construction of the basilica, but fortunately all of them were defeated.
As some of other architect of great monuments, Paul Abadie also could not see his work completed. He died in 1884, just nine years after the construction began. The construction then was supervised by several other architects, Honoré Daumet (1884–1886), Jean-Charles Laisné (1886–1891), Henri-Pierre-Marie Rauline (1891–1904), Lucien Magne (1904–1916), and Jean-Louis Hulot (1916–1924).
The construction of the basilica is estimated to cost 7 million French francs. The fund was raised initially from private donations and then later from pilgrimage donations. The pilgrims were allowed to “bought” small features of the basilica such as a brick or column and paid some money in return.
The basilica is also a witness of a historical event in Paris. It once sheltered radical demonstrators in 1971.
The Architecture and Design of Basilique fu Sacre Coeur
The basilica adopts the Romano-Byzantine style which was considerably an unusual choice of architecture style at that time which was dominated with Baroque style. The architecture of the basilica is also full of France national symbolisms such as the portico with the three arches and statues of national heroes, Saint Joan of Arc and King Saint Louis IX.
The Basilica Now
The building of Basilique du Sacre Coeur is built from travertine stone. The stone has the characteristic of natural white color which won’t get washed away because of weathering or pollution. Therefore, the basilica will always look white.
From the top of the basilica, visitors can enjoy the panoramic view of Paris. Surrounding the basilica, there is a complex of garden for meditation with a fountain inside.
One unique thing about the basilica is that there is a legendary pipe organ which was built by Aristide Cavaille-Coll. The pipe organ was made with 109 ranks and 78 speaking stops, 61-note manuals and 32-note pedal board. With those specifications, the organ was way ahead its time.