Sacré-Coeur - History

Sacré-Coeur - History (62A)

In the times of the French Revolution a large Benedictine abbey was built on the hill. Like so many other religious or noble monuments, the abbey was destroyed. The monks lost their heads, via the guillotine, of course. Of the original building, the only remaining part is one of the oldest churches in Paris, known as Saint Pierre de Montmartre.

There are, however, disagreements about the history of the origin of the basilica. The most popular explanation is that the creation of the new church on the same spot was due to the historical circumstances France was passing through and due to a promise.

In 1870 the Franco-Prussian War had broken out and the French troops stopped supporting the Pope, who they considered a prisoner of the Vatican. Two businessmen, Alexandre Legentil and Rohault de Fleury, promised to finance the basilica if France was saved from being invaded. In 1871 France was defeated. But despite the war and the cruel siege that Paris was subjected to, the invasion was avoided. To clear its religious conscience, France decided that the best thing to do would be to build a church. The Archbishop of Paris, Guibert, undertook the project.

In 1873 the National Assembly chose the hill of Montmartre as the best site to build the church. 

The winner of the project tender was Paul Abadie. Like many other works, the original architect never saw his completed work since he died in 1884. As many as five more architects supervised the works of the Sacre Coeur. The abbey was inspired by Roman-Byzantine style similar to that of Saint Sophia of Istanbul or the Basilica of San Marco in Venice. It is a style totally opposed to that of other medieval churches in Paris such as Notre Dame.

The building works on the basilica of the Sacré-Coeur were carried out between 1875 and 1914.

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