Ever considered a Montmartre pilgrimage?
Montmartre, or Mountain of the Martyrs, has a long religious history for different faiths. It is currently the site of three noteworthy churches:
Their proximity, history, and beauty make Montmartre great for a little day pilgrimage. It's a wonderful opportunity to take in some very different religious architecture, running the gamut from the rich history of Saint-Pierre to the Romano-Byzantine style of Sacré-Cœur and Art Nouveau Saint-Jean.
And as you walk between sites on your Montmartre pilgrimage, you can take in the view of Paris and the ambience of this popular historic district filled with shops and restaurants.
The Church of Saint Peter (Église Saint-Pierre de Montmartre) was rebuilt in the 12th century. The choir of St Peter’s is also the only surviving part of the Abbey of the Ladies of Montmartre (it was their chapel).
Saint-Pierre de Montmartre is the oldest church in Paris and has long been a stop on Montmartre pilgrimage. In fact, it replaced an older chapel pilgrims would stop at on their way to the Basilica of Saint Denis in the northern part of Paris.
In the 16th century, a crypt with the remains of three graves was uncovered beneath it—one believed to be that of Saint Denis himself. The chapel built after this discovery became a major Montmartre pilgrimage site.
Later, the church fell into disuse and, thus, was spared during the French Revolution. The architect Sauvageot restored it, preserving many of its original features—including two antic columns that were part of the original Temple of Mars on that site.
Max Ingrand designed the contemporary stained-glass windows for the apse and aisles, while the Italian sculptor Gismondi crafted three enormous entrance doors for the church.
It is currently listed as a historic monument and is right around the corner from the Sacred Heart Basilica.
Positioned at the foot of Montmartre, Saint-Jean is a good place to begin or end your Montmartre pilgrimage.
Saint-Jean de Montmartre was designed by architect Anatole de Baudot, a disciple of Viollet-le-Duc, who restored many famous landmarks including Carcassonne.
Saint-Jean is rather unique: an Art Nouveau style built using brick and reinforced cement. Indeed, the use of reinforced cement for a religious building was rather controversial and resulted in a stop in construction at one point.
The façade is decorated with multicolored sandstone pearls, and the main altar was designed by famous ceramist Alexandre Bigot and sculptor and printmaker Pierre Roche.
A “hybrid of medieval and eclectic sources,” the style of the church isn’t universally celebrated, but it is simple and elegant. It well reflects the societal shifts of the time in which it was built and is worth seeing not only as a place of prayer during a Montmartre pilgrimage, but also for its wealth of Art Nouveau decorative features, many by famous artists.
Themes of interior and exterior decoration are based on John’s passages from the Gospel of John and Revelation.
Last (but far from least) is the Sacré Cœur Basilica, or Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Sacré-Cœur is the second-most visited site in Paris. It is at the Montmartre Summit and could easily serve as the capstone for a Montmartre pilgrimage.
Montmartre—the Mount of Martyrs—is the highest point in Paris and has served as a site of worship for Gallic Druids, polytheistic Romans, and later Christians. It is also the site of the Paris Commune insurrection in 1870. However, the insurrection was not the inspiration for the national vow for a church here.
Many believed France’s defeat and partial occupation by Germany in the 1870 war had spiritual, rather than political, causes. So they made a vow to build a church as reparation. Montmartre was eventually chosen as the site for the Sacred Heart Basilica.
Built in a Romano-Byzantine style at the end of the 19th century (completed early 20th), Sacred Heart is relatively “new.” But it is also incredibly beautiful and entirely worthy of the visitation it receives by tourists and those on a Montmartre pilgrimage.
One feature of its uniqueness is that it’s built of a Château-Landon travertine that exudes calcite when rainwater touches it. The calcite makes it white and (more or less) self cleaning, despite years of wear and pollution.
The basilica is built as a four-domed cross. The light-filled apse is the centerpiece. It contains the 475 square-meter Mosaic of Christ in Glory—one of the largest in the world. There is also a famous (massive) 19-ton bell overhead, La Savoyarde.
There is also an entrance to the crypt just outside the basilica.
Finish your Montmartre pilgrimage here at sunset for a stunning view!
The Ephrem Guesthouse is located right next to the basilica. It has 52 bedrooms and 180 beds. You can contact the sister in charge at +33 1 53 41 89 09 or at email@example.com
In addition to a Montmartre pilgrimage, you can try these sites (all great as short day pilgrimages):
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Over a million pilgrims & tourists come to Rocamadour every year. They climb the path to the top & the Chemin de Croix or listen to the sacred music.