A visit to Sacré-Cœur was one of my pre-planned and definite items on the itinerary. When we were in Paris last, in 2003, our visit was rather short but this time I really wanted to make time for a proper tour of the church and a visit to the dome.
It is only a short walk from the Metro station to the stairs of Sacré-Cœur. But don’t worry, you don’t have to walk all the way up. One can use the Funiculaire de Montmartre. We decided to take the footpath and the 237 stairs uphill and not the Funiculaire de Montmartre. The ride up takes less than two minutes and costs the same as a Metro ticket.
A visit to Sacré-Cœur
In the heart of Paris, in the 18th Arrondissement, is the Basilica minor Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre. Construction of this roman catholic pilgrimage church started in the 19th century.
Technically, Sacré-Cœur isn’t actually a basilica, it is a cross-in-square church made from Château-Landon stone. These stones are rather special. They release calcite which over time gives them a chalky white finish. That is what makes the church look so bright and shiny. The building is 83 meters high, that includes the 55 meters of the dome alone.
When arriving at the foot of Sacré-Cœur, the first thing one sees are the 237 stairs leading up the hill. All one has to do is walk up the stairs and turn around every now and again to enjoy the fantastic view of the city and Sacré-Cœur. At the top, it is a good idea to take some time to take in the outside of the church. Other churches might appear more spectacular at first glance but Sacré-Cœur with all its domes and the intricate footprint is certainly an interesting construction.
After a security check – there are still people who try to get into the church in inappropriate clothes – visitors proceed through the three arches of the main portal that is framed by the equestrian monuments of Jeanne d’Arc and King Louis IX.
I wasn’t really that much into the design of the nave, it was a bit plain. An eye-catcher is a mosaic in the apse. It measures 475m² and depicts Jesus with wide open arms. The rose window with the heart of Jesus is wonderful, too.
300 more stairs to the dome
There is another security checkpoint outside the nave just behind a little staircase. The staircase leads to the separate entrance from where you can ascend into the dome at an extra cost. A warning sign says that it will be another 300 stairs to the dome. But what are 300 stairs when you have just mastered more than 250 stairs to even get to Sacré-Cœur in the first place.
A narrow winding staircase leads up to the dome. Within opening hours visitors can stay up here for as long as they like and enjoy the exhibition and the breathtaking view. On a nice day, one can see up to 40 kilometres across the city.
But don’t only ever gaze into the distance. It is an experience to study all the gargoyles and the elaborate details of the design.
A second staircase is for descending only. This is to avoid bottlenecks on the main staircase.
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