Les escaliers de la butte
I mentioned that I have a complicated relationship with Paris. Did I also mention that I have a complicated relationship with stairs? On the one hand, they get me where I need to go; on the other… at what cost? Thankfully for me, and for other people for whom stairs might be an actual obstacle, it’s quite easy to circumvent the stairways and climb the butte by way of a funicular, which is conveniently located at the bottom of the stairs in front of the Sacré-Cœur and drops you off right at its door.
One of the things on my list of must-see sights back in 2013 was Sacré-Cœur, very near the top. The first time I saw it was actually on the RER from the airport to the city center, off in the distance, and I audibly gasped, earning myself weird looks from other people in the wagon who had heard me. It’s a striking sight, perched at the very top of the hill of Montmartre, clad in pure white.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart was designed by Paul Abadie, who also worked on the restoration of Notre-Dame de Paris undertaken in the 19th century, and who beat 77 other architects for the privilege. Construction started in 1875 (go here to see how the site looked in 1882, and here in 1897) and wasn’t completed until 1914, long after Abadie had passed.
The church was seen as a double monument, both a national penance for the defeat of France in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, seen as divine punishment for a period of decadence and moral decline which followed the French Revolution, as well as for the socialist Paris Commune of 1871: the church crowns its most rebellious neighborhood, and the building itself represents conservative moral order.
Private donations had provided an estimated 7 million French francs to cover the costs of construction, but the funds ran out before the building had even taken off the ground. A provisional chapel was put in place in 1876, and pilgrimage donations became the main source of funding from there on out: donations were encouraged by allowing donors to “purchase” columns or other features of the church, some as small as a brick. It was later declared by the National Assembly that the state was responsible for funding the structure.
It wasn’t until 1919, after a small interruption caused by World War I, that the church was consecrated.
This place is an Australian import located just a few steps away from Sacré-Cœur, which I think is just the universe telling you to stop here for breakfast when you visit the church.
What I ate was denominated, quite straightforwardly, “Le Sandwich.” I have to admit I was a little intimidated by it when they first brought it out. I mean, look at it.
Cutlery definitely came to the rescue with this one.