Looming above Paris from its position on a hilltop near the northern edge of the city, the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur can be seen from most places in the eastern half of Paris that have any sort of view at all. So it is certainly a prominent landmark, even for those of us who dislike the building and what it stands for. I must admit that it serves a useful purpose for those who emerge disoriented from the Métro in some unknown part of the city and want to know which way is north. (Disoriented actually means not knowing which way is east, as in the Orient, but if you know north you can find east easily enough, just a quarter turn to the right.)
Like the Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière, which has a similarly dominating position on a hill above the city of Lyon, the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur was begun in the troubled period of the 1870s to celebrate the triumph of reactionary ‘Christian values’ over the socialist aspirations of the Paris and Lyon communes.
In the words of Bertrand Taithe, Professor of Cultural History at The University of Manchester:
“The reaction to the communes of Paris and Lyon were triumphalist monuments, the Sacré-Coeur of Montmartre and the Basilica of Fourvière, dominating both cities. These buildings were erected using private funds, as gigantic ex-votos, thanking God for the victory over the socialists and in expiation of the sins of modern France.” (From his book Citizenship and Wars: France in Turmoil, 1870-1871.)
If you promise not to be offended I’ll tell you what the Basilica Sacré-Coeur reminds me of. — — —
What? You don’t promise not to be offended? In that case I won’t tell you, so you’ll never know. (It wasn’t anything very nice, anyway.)
Since Sacré-Coeur is at the top of a rather steep hill, there are no Vélib’ bicycle stations nearby. The nearest, I suppose, would be station 18002 at 25 rue de Clignancourt. Or station 18006 at Place Saint Pierre, which is at the bottom of the stairs.
I took this photo (above) from the roof of the Centre Georges Pompidou a.k.a. Beaubourg, which is about three kilometers south of Sacré-Coeur.
This is a photo I took from the balcony on the 28th floor of the Chambord Tower at the far south end of Paris. From there it is possible to see both Notre-Dame (3.6 kilometers away) and Sacré-Coeur (up on a hill at a distance of 7.4 kilometers) if you look north between the nearby buildings (and squint).
My photos in this post are from 2007, 2008 and 2011. I revised the text in 2017.
See more posts on the Montmartre district of Paris.