A bit of history
Officially called the Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre (Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre), the basilica was built between 1875 and 1914.
The architecture is described as being neo-byzantine in its style. But what does that mean exactly? Paul Abadies, the architect who died in 1884, before the construction work was completed, took inspiration from the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice. The architectural style features arches, vaults and domes with moulding and mosaics as decorative elements.
Sacré-Cœur breaks the basilica mould a little. Traditionally, a basilica is an elongated building with a high roof at its centre and lower chambers on either side. But Sacré-Cœur is more of a cross-in-square church with its compact square floor plan spanning 85 x 35 metres. The basilica stands at 83 metres tall, with the dome accounting for 55 metres of that height.
Sacré-Cœur got a lot of bad press for a long time. Even within the travel sector! This quote was taken from an illustrated book published in 1974:
“When you approach and reach the forecourt, when you enter the interior, you cannot put up with the accumulation of meaningless structures: the glorious, disproportionate domes, the indestructible ugliness of the sculptures and mosaics and even less with the coldness of the pale material, which will never take on a patina, this robust stone from Château-Landon which, contrary to expectations, becomes whiter with increasing age.” Fleury, Erlande-Brandenburg and Babelon, 1974.
That was then. What about now? These days, Sacré-Cœur is easily one of the top 10 sights in Paris!