Le Sacré-Cœur: A Giant Church in Montmartre
Look up in the Parisian landscape! White towers dominate the lower houses and look down at the river Seine.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it the Taj Mahal? No, it’s le Sacré-Cœur!
A massively touristic attraction, in an iconic neighborhood, with a terrific view… and a history written in blood. Let’s talk about the church on the hill.
Et toi ?
Do you have a nice memory of Le Sacré Coeur to share with us?
What else do you know about Montmartre that I didn’t mention in the episode? :)
Bonus Material: Download the Transcript
Salut c’est Géraldine, bienvenue sur Comme une Française TV, Sound French, even to the French.
The white towers of le Sacré-Coeur are a hallmark of the Parisian landscape. Ten million pilgrims and tourists come visit it every year. It’s the second most visited religious building in Paris, after Notre-Dame cathedral – and prominently featured in the movie Amelie.
And yet, people don’t know much about it—even Parisians.
Let’s dive in.
1 – Une église sur la colline
Une église sur la colline – A church on the hill
Le Sacré-Cœur’s official name is La Basilique du Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre : the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris. It stands on the hill of Montmartre, a Parisian neighbourhood on the north side of the city. Many metro stations are available all around the hill. However, to reach Montmartre itself, you’ll have to walk up multiple stairways… or ride on le Funiculaire de Montmartre, the Montmartre funicular. This train carries two million passengers a year.
Whatever your choice, the view from the hill upon the entire city will be worth it, I assure you !
As an aside, I’m sure you’ve noticed the special sign in the word Cœur : œ, l’e-dans-l’o.It’s literally “an e in a o." Most times, it’s followed by a u or i and pronounced eu : un œuf, mon œil, une sœur
However in some words, the e dans l’o stands by itself, and is pronounced é : Œdipe fœtus ...But most French people still pronounce it eu – just to show you, don’t worry, we make mistakes in our own language as well !
2 – L’histoire derrière le Sacré-Cœur L’histoire derrière le Sacré-Cœur – The history behind le Sacré-Coeur The Basilica was built on an old place of worship, dating back to les Gaulois, the Gauls, before the arrival of the Roman Empire in the city. The first Frank kings, a few centuries later, were buried in a church nearby – it still exists today, l’Église Saint-Pierre de Montmartre.
However, the Basilica itself is, surprisingly, pretty modern : it was built in 1872.
At that time, France had lost against the army of Prussia, in 1870. The Parisians had suffered a long siege, and they were wary of their new conservative government – in 1871, the Parisian workers started an uprising in Montmartre that later spread through the whole city. It became a four-month long experiment in revolution, radical socialism, and atheism : La Commune de Paris, the Paris Commune. The new “Government of Moral Order” couldn’t stand it, so the army was sent – they killed the rebels in La Semaine Sanglante – the Bloody Week A few months later, in celebration of the moral and national renewal and to forever forget La Commune, they built a massive church in the place where the uprising began : le Sacré-Cœur.
So the architecture isn’t quite as ancient and impressive as Notre-Dame, for example. Inside the Basilica, you’ll find a large mosaic on the ceiling, and a vast hall of white walls. You can visit the towers, and you’ll see the biggest bell of the country : this bell was a gift from the the people of La Savoie, in 1880, who had been made French just a few years before. La Savoie is a part of France that I’m fond of, with beautiful mountains and lakes in the Alps, close to where I live.
But anyway, the best part of going to le Sacré-Cœur isn’t the church itself, actually.
3 – Around the Basilica Autour de la Basilique – Around the Basilica The area around the church is wonderful – strolling around Montmartre, you’ll find gardens, hidden stairways, old houses... even a vineyard !
The neighborhood used to be a small village for impoverished artists, living la vie de bohème – hungry and cold, but also creative and free. Nowadays prices there are really high. The transformation and nostalgia is part of the famous song about Montmartre, La Bohème.
You’ll still find some famous landmarks from yesteryear : – the restaurant Le Moulin de la Galette, reminding us that there used to be several windmills up on that hill, and depicted in many paintings – la Place du Tertres and its painters – Le Lapin Agile / Le Chat Noir, famous bars where young artists like Picasso used to hang out
...and still today, musicians and flowers and cafés ; and always out of the corner of your eye, the white towers of le Sacré-Cœur.
Et toi ? Do you have a nice memory of Le Sacré Coeur to share with us? What else do you know about Montmartre that I didn’t mention in the episode?
Share your experience (in French if you dare!) in the comments below. We can all learn from your story. The comment section is the best place to start discussions and ask questions! Don’t hesitate to comment if you liked this video, or if you have something you want me to talk about - I’ll read all your comments.
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Allez, salut !
Bonus Material: Download the Transcript