The Basilique du Sacre Coeur is a significant cultural and religious landmark of Paris and marks the highest point of the city in the heart of Montmartre. It is a Catholic church devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and, because of its beautiful basilica and vast views over Paris, it is also a popular tourist attraction. Musicians on the church steps, picnickers in the church grounds and the encompassing beauty creates a unique Parisian atmosphere any visitor must experience.
The dome is the most defining feature of the basilica, accessed by a 234-step spiralling stairway leading to a lookout of panoramas over the city, with flawless views up to 30 kilometres in any direction. Created in 1895, the bell in the tower of Sacre Coeur is the largest in the country and at 19 tonnes, it is one of the heaviest in the world. The ceiling mosaic inside the Church is also the largest in France at 480 metres squared and makes an impressive, colourful and captivating display. The exterior of the building is equally inspiring as it is made of travertine stone, which denies the weathering of city pollution and retains a clean white appearance.
Sacre Coeur lies at the summit of Montmartre Hill, so visitors can walk the iconic steps up to the church, take the Funicular cable car or ride the Montmartrobus to the top. The metro stations of Anvers and Abbesses are both at the bottom of the hill, and there is a nearby car park for drivers. Cars and coaches cannot traverse the winding pedestrianised streets to the entrance of the basilica.
The purpose behind the construction of the Basilique du Sacre Coeur was to celebrate the survival of Paris through the Franco-Prussian War, show devotion to God and condemn the sins of the city. The project was authorised in 1873, and Paul Abadie won the architect competition by designing a church true to Christian traditions yet standing in unique contrast to other French Romanesque buildings. Although construction ended in 1914, war delayed the official dedication of the basilica until 1919, when it was finally completed and additionally devoted to the French soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.