Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Chilly Morning on the Mount

It was a chilly morning in October when we visited Sacre Coeur and Montmartre, via the Metro and the Funiculaire after walking up crowded Rue Steinkerque. Once at Park Willette, the Basilica loomed beatifully above us against the bright blue sky:

The merry-go-round and souvenir hawkers were already very busy. As we walked up the first level to Sacre Coeur, we saw the young men hawking little trinkets prepare for the next wave of tourists. We also saw a tour guide instructing her group on the significance of the basilica and its construction. They left the park and went on to the next tourist spot--inside Sacre Coeur the focus is on prayer and adoration--signs instruct visitors not to take pictures, not to disturb those praying before the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance above the high altar, and for men to take off their hats. Ushers stand to enforce these rules!

Descending from the park, we waited for the funiculaire and then mounted the last steps up the parvis of Sacre Coeur. Before we went inside, I took some pictures of the statues on the facade of the church:

St. Joan of Arc:

St. Louis:

And the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

These banners proclaimed the Year of Faith and quoted Blessed John Paul II:

Inside, after praying before the Blessed Sacrament, I did sneak a couple of pictures:

(This is a chapel with displays about St. Therese of Lisieux--we saw an emphasis on her in many of the churches we visited this trip.)
At the gift shop, I purchased these two chaplets with medals commemorating the 125 years of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at Sacre Coeur (and took this picture later that day back at our hotel room):

As this website reminds us:

The site of the 19th-century basilica is traditionally associated with the beheading of the city's patron, Saint Denis, in the 3rd century. According to legend, after he was martyred, Bishop Denis picked up his severed head and carried it several miles to the north, where the suburb of Saint-Denis stands today.

After France's 1870 defeat by the Prussians in the Franco-Prussian War and its aftermath, the Commune of 1871, the basilica was planned as a guilt offering and a vote of confidence to cure France's misfortunes.

The church was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a cult that gained popularity after 1873, when the first pilgrimage was organized to Paray-le-Monial in Burgundy. It was there that revelations encouraging prayer to Christ's sacred heart had been reported in the 17th century.

The foundation stone of the Basilique Sacré-Coeur was laid in 1875. It was consecrated in 1891, fully completed in 1914, and elevated to the status of a basilica in 1919, after the end of the First World War.

The Sacré-Coeur was paid for by national subscription, and its iconography is distinctly nationalistic. It has much in common, both historically and architecturally, with the Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourviere in Lyon.

Designed by Paul Abadie in a Romanesque-Byzantine architectural style, the Sacré-Coeur was inspired by St-Front in Perigueux (Dordogne), a multi-domed Romanesque church the architect had recently restored.

The triple-arched portico is surmounted by two bronze equestrian statues of France's national saints, Joan of Arc and King Saint Louis IX, designed by Hippolyte Lefebvre.

The Sacré-Coeur Basilica is built of Château-Landon (Seine-et-Marne) stone, a frost-resistant travertine that bleaches with age to a gleaming white.

The apse mosaic, designed by Luc-Olivier Merson (1922), is the largest in the world. It depicts Christ in Majesty and The Sacred Heart worshiped by the Virgin Mary, Joan of Arc and St. Michael the Archangel.

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