Paris Top 10 : Sacré-Coeur

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One of the most photographed images of the city, the spectacular white outline of Sacré-Coeur (Sacred Heart) watches over Paris from its highest point. The basilica was built as a memorial to the 58,000 French soldiers killed during the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71) and took 46 years to build, finally completed in 1923 at a cost of 40 million francs (6 million euros). Priests still pray for the souls of the dead here 24 hours a day. Although the interior is less impressive than many other churches in the city, people flock here for the panoramic views – at sunset, in particular, there are few sights in Paris more memorable.

  • Parvis du Sacré-Coeur, 75018

  • 01 53 41 89 00


  • Open 6am–11pm, last entry 10:15pm (basilica), 9:30am–5:30pm (dome and crypt) daily

  • Admission €5.00 (dome and crypt only)

  • No disabled access

The Franco-Prussian War

In 1870, as Prussia made moves to take over Germany, France was also threatened by its military power. Two Catholic businessmen in Paris vowed to build a church dedicated to the Sacred Heart if France were spared the Prussian onslaught. France declared war on Prussia in July, but she was ill-prepared and in September Napoleon III was captured. Parisians held fast, however, defending their city with homemade weapons and eating dogs, cats and rats. But by January 1871 they surrendered.

Sacré-Coeur dome

Avoid the crowds and head to 23 rue des Abbesses and grab a bite at the St Jean or try Café Anosé at 123 rue Caulaincourt.

An evocative sung Mass takes place on Sundays at 11am.

Top 10 Features
  1. Great Mosaic of Christ

    A glittering Byzantine mosaic of Christ, created by Luc Olivier Merson between 1912–22, decorates the vault over the chancel. It represents France’s devotion to the Sacred Heart.

  2. Crypt Vaults

    The most interesting feature of the interior is the arched vaults of the crypt. A chapel contains the heart of Alexandre Legentil, one of the advocates of Sacré-Coeur.

  3. Bronze Doors

    The doors of the portico entrance are beautifully decorated with bronze relief sculptures depicting the Last Supper and other scenes from the life of Christ.

  4. The Dome

    The distinctive egg-shaped dome of the basilica is the second-highest viewpoint in Paris after the Eiffel Tower. Reached via a spiral staircase, vistas can stretch as far as 48 km (30 miles) on a clear day.

  5. Statue of Christ

    The basilica’s most important statue shows Christ giving a blessing. It is symbolically placed in a niche over the main entrance, above the two equestrian statues.

  6. Bell Tower

    The beautiful campanile, designed by Lucien Magne and added in 1904, is 80 m (262 ft) high. One of the heaviest bells in the world, the 19-ton La Savoyarde hangs in the belfry. Cast in Annecy in 1895, it was donated by the dioceses of Savoy.

  7. Equestrian Statues

    Two striking bronze statues of French saints stand on the portico above the main entrance, cast by H Lefèbvre. One is of Joan of Arc, the other of Saint Louis.

  8. Stained-Glass Gallery

    One level of the great dome is encircled by stained-glass windows. From here there is a grand view over the whole interior.

  9. Façade

    Architect Paul Abadie (1812–1884) employed a mix of domes, turrets and Classical features in his design. The Château-Landon stone secretes calcite when wet and bleaches the façade white.

  10. The Funicular

    To avoid the steep climb up to Sacré-Coeur, take the funiculaire cable railway and enjoy the views at leisure. It runs from the end of rue Foyatier, near Square Willette.

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