Montmartre Pilgrimage:
Un Petit Pèlerinage à Paris


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:

  • Modern Église Saint-Jean de Montmartre
  • Église Saint-Pierre (one of Paris’s oldest surviving churches)
  • The awe-inspiring Basilique du Sacré-Cœur (Sacred Heart Basilica)

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.


3 Great Churches on the Mountain of Martyrs

Église Saint-Pierre de Montmartre (St Peter's Church)

St Peter's Church, Montmartre in Paris

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.

  • Metro:            Anvers Line 2
  • Hours:            9:30am – 7pm daily 
  • Cost:              Free
  • Address:        2 rue du Mont Cenis, 75018 Paris



Église Saint-Jean de Montmartre (St John's Church)

Stained glass window in St John's Church, Montmartre

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.

  • Hours: 9am – 7pm; guided tours every 4th Sunday of the month at 4pm
  • Mass:  See https://www.saintjeandemontmartre.com for days & hours
  • Address: 19 rue des Abbesses, 75018 Paris
  • Metro stop:  Line 12, Abbesses



Basilique du Sacré Cœur, or Sacred Heart Basilica (and Ephrem Guesthouse)


View of Sacred Heart Basilica on top of Montmartre

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 ephrem@sacrecoeurdemontmartre.fr  

  • Hours:            6am – 10pm daily
  • Cost:              Free
  • Mass:             Daily (check here for times; confession also available)
  • Address:        Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris



Things to Know About a Montmartre Pilgrimage

  • Paris doesn’t have a lot of religious guesthouses, but it does have a few: the Ephrem Guesthouse at Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre, the Auberge Adveniat youth hostel in the 8th arrondissement, and the membership-based Maison Eymard.
  • There’s a fair selection of secular hostels for budget travelers, plus a horde of hotels and B&Bs. (It’s Paris.)
  • Visitors can either walk up, climb the stairs to the top, or take a quick trip on the Montmartre Funicular operated by the Paris Transport Authority. The funicular has been in place since 1900!
  • Paris Metro Lines 8 & 12 go to Montmartre.
  • There are many artists and upscale shops & restaurants through this area.
  • Great view of Paris from the top, especially at sunset
  • There’s an “I Love You” wall in the Jehan-Rictus square with the phrase written in every language.
  • July & August are horrible times to drive around Paris. So many locals are coming and going on vacations, even in the wake of Covid. (Note: Paris will be a little quieter in August because of this, but there will also be slightly fewer restaurant options, as many close down for vacation.)



Other Pilgrimage Destinations in Paris

In addition to a Montmartre pilgrimage, you can try these sites (all great as short day pilgrimages):

  • The Louvre: The Louvre is a veritable Mecca of art and history—worthy of a pilgrimage in its own right. Wander through the art, but also take time to stop and let the beauty soak into you. Metro line 1 goes by here.
  • The Pantheon: Many of the greatest minds of France are buried in this neoclassical mausoleum, including Victor Hugo, Voltaire, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.1 November – 31 March, admission is free the first Sunday of the month.
  • Paris Cathedrals & Churches5 Paris cathedrals you absolutely shouldn’t miss! The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is one of these. It's absolutely unique & like a little bit of Russia right here in Paris. (Really, there are literal tons of beautiful historic churches in Paris. It’s hard to go wrong, but definitely give these a look if you can.)
  • Père-Lachaise Cemetery: Paris has many lovely cemeteries. Perhaps one of the loveliest is Père-Lachaise, which is easy to get to by metro lines 2 & 3. Molière, Oscar Wile, and the Doors’ Jim Morrison are buried here. There are also war memorials.
  • Picpus Cemetery: Picpus Cemetery is the resting place for 1,306 peopleexecuted during the Great Terror of 1794. It most famously houses the remains of the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American & French Revolutions.



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