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Have you ever visited a holy place and could just feel the palpable energy emanating from its very walls? That’s exactly how I felt visiting the Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Sacre-Coeur). Imagine my surprise when I learned that the church was built on a sacred site where druids were thought to worship! And who hasn’t read (or watched) the tale of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and imagined our unlikely hero swinging from gargoyle to gargoyle in a mad dash to save the beautiful Esperanza? I’d say these are good enough reasons to visit these 2 particular iconic churches in Paris and I am excited to share our experience with you.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Basilique du Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre)
Sacre-Coeur was started in 1875 and finished by 1914 by architect Paul Abadie. It is blazingly modeled according to the Romanesque-Byzantine style and looks like a tower of marble atop the hill of Montmartre. As I mentioned earlier, the site where it now stands used to be a druid sanctuary, before the Romans built temples for the gods Mars and Mercury. It then became the first Christian sanctuary in honor of St. Denis, Paris’ first bishop, who was believed to be beheaded on the site. According to the legend, the body of the saint picked up its head after the execution and started to walk while his mouth was still delivering a sermon. It finally stopped, and the site where he finally lay (truly, finally) dead became a small shrine. This shrine is now the present-day St. Denys-la-Chapelle and part of the Basilica.
This confirms that special buzz you feel walking on its holy grounds. There’s definitely something here, and different religions have felt it and claimed it as a place of worship in many points in history. I’m not kidding when I say, you could feel its holiness oozing from the pavements.
Aside from the possible leys (energy lines) underneath, Sacre-Coeur is also worth a visit because of its grandness. It commands the sight atop the hill, and it is also quite exhilarating to see the view of Paris from the top of the stairs.
View from the bottom step of the Church.
I managed to discreetly take a few photos, although it is highly discouraged to pose and click inside. It just didn’t feel right. I was only too happy to put my phone away because something about the place just calls you to prayer. One particular thing I noticed is a vending machine for stamped coins. I wanted to capture our visit in one way or another, so I got 2 of the silver coins which costs 5E each.
Upon stepping outside, the cool air was the perfect company on our descent down. I stopped for a few photos along the binoculars where one of the famous scenes in my favorite movie, Amelie, was taken. Halfway through, there is a funicular (like a cable car but attached to the ground) which can take you all the way down. The Metro tickets work here as well, and we tried it just for fun).
The funicular is stroller-friendly, but it still brings you only halfway up. Best bet is to take a bus that circles the hill.
One final look up and all I could say to myself was, “Wow, that happened.”
Dove above Sacre-Couer. @ livburgos
The Cathedral of Notre-Dame
(properly known as Notre-Dame de Paris which translates to Our Lady of Paris)
Notre-Dame de Paris is the most visited site in Paris, beating even the Eiffel Tower. Constructed between 1163 and 1345, it is one of the oldest, biggest Roman Catholic churches in the world. Its Gothic buttresses, graceful statues, and famous gargoyles all provide the visitor a lot of intricate and gorgeous details for eyes to feast on. This I have to say, it sure is knock-you-out beautiful. Visiting the Church and going inside is free, but there is a long line to contend with. There are 367 steps you could also venture to climb to gain access to one of the famous Paris landscape views,. However, a cranky baby, a grandmother, and overweight adults just aren’t the right combination to take that challenge on.
There was plenty to see from the outside. Built at Ile-de-Cite, which is the very heart of Paris, Notre-Dame has the most beautiful stained glass windows. I had a lot of fun looking at the little details and trying to capture as much as I can with my amazing Samsung phone camera.
This is also where my son met his first girlfriend! This little Spanish senorita kept following Dylan around, but it took my son some time to warm up. By the end of our visit though, they were chasing after each other and playing tag. Puppy Love took a blow when we had to leave. Haha!
Notre-Dame vs Sacre-Coeur
It may not be a fair assessment since we did not go inside Notre-Dame, but aside from the beauty of the architecture, I still favor Sacre-Coeur. There was just magic in the air in Montmartre in general, and the Church was right in the middle of it all. I recommend you visit both, and give it the time it deserves. Aside from the museums, these sacred sites are also worthy of a place in your itinerary.
Photo from the Ethno Traveler Magazine.
Both Churches are not stroller-friendly. Opt for a baby carrier.
There are restaurants and establishments nearby which could be your access to washrooms. It was hard to find the restrooms inside the churches itself.
Devote two separate blocks of time for Montmartre and Ile-de-Cite. Aside from the churches, there are also a lot to see and soak in. These are amongst the nicest arrondissements in Paris. Take your time and stroll around.
I am open to questions! Do leave a message in the comment box below if you want to ask about other details I decided not to include (how we got there, what we brought, etc). Or tell us about your own pilgrimage to these sacred places.
Smell ya later,