The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, located at the top of the Montmartre hill, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica in Paris, France, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Sacré-Cœur Basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. It is a popular landmark, and the second-most visited monument in Paris. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre is a major Parisian religious building, “sanctuary of adoration Eucharistic and Divine Mercy” and property of the Archdiocese of Paris.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris is considered as both a political and cultural monument, representing a national penance for the defeat of France in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and for the actions of the Paris Commune of 1871. Sacré-Cœur Basilica was built in a neighborhood which witnessed significant events by the Paris Commune of 1871. Sacré-Cœur Basilica has maintained a perpetual adoration of the Holy Eucharist since 1885. The basilica was designed by Paul Abadie. Construction began in 1875 and was completed in 1914. The basilica was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919.
Instead of the Gothic architectural style more common in Paris, the cathedral used the Byzantine architectural style, which is less common in the region, famous for its three large circular domes. The overall style of the structure shows a free interpretation of Romano-Byzantine features, an unusual architectural vocabulary at the time, which was a conscious reaction against the neo-Baroque excesses of the Palais Garnier cited in the competition. Sacré-Cœur is built of travertine stone quarried in Château-Landon (Seine-et-Marne), France, This material does not change color due to oxidation and can maintain a white color for a long time.
Many design elements of the basilica symbolize nationalist themes: the portico, with its three arches, is adorned by two equestrian statues of French national saints Joan of Arc (1927) and King Saint Louis IX, both executed in bronze by Hippolyte Lefèbvre; and the nineteen-ton Savoyarde bell (one of the world’s heaviest), cast in 1895 in Annecy, alludes to the annexation of Savoy in 1860. The basilica complex includes a garden for meditation, with a fountain. The top of the dome is open to tourists and affords a spectacular panoramic view of the city of Paris, which is mostly to the south of the basilica.
The Basilica is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was an increasingly popular devotion since the visions of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) in Paray-le-Monial. Since 1885 (before construction had been completed) the Blessed Sacrament (Christ’s body, consecrated during the Mass) has been continually on display in a monstrance above the high altar. Perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has continued uninterrupted in the basilica since 1885. In response to requests from French bishops, Pope Pius IX promulgated the feast of the Sacred Heart in 1856. The basilica itself was consecrated on 16 October 1919.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre is one of the five minor basilicas of Paris. Dedicated to perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the basilica is the “sanctuary of Eucharistic adoration and divine mercy”. Since 1885, the faithful take turns in the basilica to recite an uninterrupted prayer, day and night. This prayer is the mission that the basilica received at its consecration: a mission of constant intercession for the Church and the world. Different evangelization and youth movements, as well as spiritual retreats and conferences are organized, ensured the spiritual and material animation of the basilica, marked the permanent influence of the basilica.
The inspiration for Sacré-Cœur’s construction originated on 4 September 1870, the day of the proclamation of the Third Republic, with a speech by Bishop Fournier. Built in memory of the soldiers killed in the Franco-Prussian War, the cathedral dedicated in honor of the 58,000 who lost their lives during the war. Montmartre was the site of the Paris Commune’s first insurrection, and the Communards executed Georges Darboy, Archbishop of Paris, who became a martyr for the resurgent Catholic Church.
Since the dawn of time, Montmartre has been a place of worship: the Gallic Druids, the Romans with the temples dedicated to Mars and Mercury, the Church of Saint-Pierre, the oldest in Paris, rebuilt near the Royal Abbey of Montmartre in the 12th century by King Louis VI and his wife Adelaide of Savoy, and the Sacré-Coeur, erected at the end of the 19th century.
The Abbey of Montmartre, for centuries, was an intense focus of religious life and a place frequented by pilgrimages. In 1792, the Benedictines were dispersed by the French Revolution and the monastery was completely destroyed. The last abbess, Marie-Louise de Montmorency-Laval, ascended the scaffold on July 24, 1794 and her blood enabled the miraculous resurrection of religious life which would take place eighty years later on the Sacred Hill.
On June 16, 1875, the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Guibert laid the first stone of the basilica (a pink marble from Bouère), not far from the old Galette mill, hence the nickname given to the basilica by the people of Montmartre, “Notre Dame de la Galette”. The work was entrusted to the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
Months were needed to consolidate the foundations: underground galleries, landslides and landslides required the construction of 83 wells to a depth of thirty-three meters and the replacement of 35,000 m 3 of loose earth by their equivalent of stone and cement. Filled with concrete and connected by powerful arcatures, they act as pillars that seek out the solid layer of the mound under the clay.
On March 3, 1876, the Archbishop of Paris inaugurated a temporary chapel alongside the works. In 1878 the construction of the crypt began and in 1881 that of the basilica. The interior of the nave was inaugurated on June 5, 1891.
Rauline and Magne kept the original plan of Abadie but added neo-Renaissance elements (forms of semicircular fenestrations, slender domes). While Abadie provided for hemispherical Romano-Byzantine domes, Magne replaced them with elongated cupolas in the neo-Renaissance style, giving them an oval shape.
The stained glass windows installed between 1903 and 1920 were destroyed during the Second World War and replaced by contemporary stained glass windows. The campanile (lantern tower) which, with the cross which dominates it, stands 91 m high 42 was finished in 1912, but it was not until 1914 that the entire facade was completed.
The consecration of the church and its elevation to the dignity of a minor basilica, initially scheduled for October 17, 1914, was postponed due to the outbreak of war.
October 16, 1919, celebrated by Cardinal Vico, in the presence of Cardinal Amette, Archbishop of Paris, and numerous bishops, ecclesiastical dignitaries, members of the clergy, civil personalities and simple faithful. The building was officially completed in 1923 with the finishing of the interior decoration, in particular the mosaics of the apse.
The 1930s saw the beginning of the construction of annexes, sacristy, offices and dormitory to accommodate pilgrims. The building was only finally completed after the Second World War, when the bombardments destroyed the stained glass windows. “In total, the program cost six times more than expected and lasted more than half a century. ”
In contrast to the churches of the Middle Ages (for example the Gothic style of Notre-Dame de Paris – 1163-1240), the style is inspired by models such as Saint Sophia in Constantinople or even San Marco in Venice or Ravenna.
The interior architecture, also in the Romano-Byzantine style, contributes to giving this “House of God” an atmosphere of harmony and peace. Light and architectural details draw attention to the choir, place of liturgical celebrations, place of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
From the forecourt of the Basilica, you can see the whole city of Paris. The visit of the Dome, which rises to more than 200 meters, allows to appreciate a landscape which extends to 50 km in the round. It is therefore the highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower.
The basilica is not built according to the traditional basilica plan. It is in the shape of a Greek cross, decorated with four cupolas. The central dome has a height under the keystone of 54.94 m and a diameter of 16 meters; its central dome, 83m high, is surmounted by a skylight formed of a colonnade. A spiral staircase of 237 steps provides access to the interior and exterior gallery of this dome, the first offering a view of the interior of the church and the second a circular panorama over 30 km on a clear day.
The eclectic architectural style of the building chosen by Abadie was inspired by Romanesque architecture, Byzantine architecture, and particularly the Saint-Front cathedral in Périgueux, the basilicas of Saint Sophia in Constantinople and Saint-Marc in Venice. Unlike most churches which traditionally have an East-West orientation, that of the basilica is North-South.
The choice of this original axis is explained for a topographical reason, the narrowness of the plateau in this direction, and for a symbolic reason, that of opening the church towards the center of Paris.
The stone chosen for the construction is not the traditional “stone of Paris” (beige Lutetian limestone pulling towards yellow) but a travertine (white rock with an extremely fine grain) which comes from the quarries of Château-Landon and Souppes-sur -Loing (the only Parisian monument built in the same material is the Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile). It was chosen by the architect Paul Abadie for its qualities of hardness and self-cleaning in contact with water, this limestone exuding cullet, which keeps the white color of the stone.
The basilica rests on the gypsum by means of pillars which cross the marls and the overlying sands. The southern facade has two floors. The lower floor is formed by a porch preceded by a staircase and divided into three arcades, to which correspond the three bronze doors of the basilica, with eardrums each decorated with a bas-relief (portal on the left, Moses strikes the stone of the desert, by Fagel; in the center Longin piercing the Heart of Jesus, also by Fagel; on the right, Saint Thomas putting his hand in the open side of Jesus, by Lefèbvre).
The porch is covered with a wide terrace adorned with balusters and two equestrian statues cushioning the side walls and installed in 1927. The sculpture on the left represents Saint Louis brandishing his sword with one hand and the crown of Christ with the other hand (statue replacing that of Saint George in 1891) and the crown of thorns, the one on the right represents Joan of Arc (statue replacing that of Saint Martin in 1925).
The upper floor, separated from the other by a cornice with modillions, is set back on the latter. It is pierced by three bays and crowned by a pediment cut at its top by a central niche where the statue of Christ in the Sacred Heart is housed on the chest, installed since 1927 (work in stone five meters high, due to Pierre Seguin. This Christ is framed by the bas-reliefs of the Magdalen and the Samaritan woman in the eardrums of the side bays, symbolizing “in the allegorical mode France, eldest daughter of the penitent and repentant Church”.
Characteristic of the taste of the second half of the 19th century for iconography with nationalist and anti-republican resonances of the holy archangel fighting against the demon (the Republic represented in the form of a crocodile which symbolizes a dragon), the statue of Saint Michael slaying the dragon on one of the pinnacles of the apse of the basilica, cast by the Ateliers Monduit, is the work of François Sicard (1903).
The campanile – which at the outer corners of its loggia carries angels sculpted by Jean Dampt – is an immense square tower completed in 1914 and serving as a bell tower which contains, among other things, the largest bell in France. Called La Savoyarde, it was cast in Annecy in 1895 by the Paccard brothers’ foundry. It measures 3 meters in diameter and weighs 18,835 kg. The bell is a nationalist symbol recalling the Annexation of Savoy, it was offered to the basilica by the four dioceses of Savoy, and arrived on the hill on October 16, 1895, which was a Parisian event.
Entering the interior of the basilica through the main door, we find the following chapels, starting with right: the chapel of Saint- Michel, also known as the chapel of the armies; the Saint- Louis or Barreau chapel; the Commerce and Industry tribune, terminating the East transept; the Chapel of Blessed Margaret Mary; the seven apsidal chapels (Chapel of Saint Francis of Assisi, Chapel of Saint John the Baptist donated by Canada and the Order of Malta, Chapel of Saint Joseph, Chapel of the Virgin Mary, Chapel of Saints Luke, Como and Damien or of the Doctors, chapel of Ignatius of Loyola, chapel of Sainte – Ursule); the chapel of Saint -Vincent-de-Paul; the tribune of Agriculture, terminating the West transept; the Chapel of the Queens of France; the Chapel of Our Lady of the Sea.
The cul-de-four of the apse of the choir is decorated with the largest mosaic in France. Made with Émaux de Briare, it covers an area of 473.78 m 2. It was designed according to the design of Luc-Olivier Merson and executed, from 1918 to 1922, by the Parisian mosaicists of the Atelier Guilbert-Martin. The monumental mosaic depicts the Sacred Heart of Jesus (surrounded by the Virgin Mary and Saint Michael, and, kneeling, Pope Leo XIII and Joan of Arc) as glorified by the Catholic Church and theFrance. At its base, the Latin phrase (SACRATISSIMO CORDI JESU, GALLIA PŒNITENS ET DEVOTA ET GRATA), on the frieze, means: “To the Most Holy Heart of Jesus, penitent, fervent and grateful France”
The basilica contains a large and very fine pipe organ built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. Originally constructed for a private home in Bidart, the organ is composed of 109 ranks and 78 speaking stops spread across four 61-note manuals and the 32-note pedalboard (unusual before the start of the 20th century; the standard of the day was 56 and 30), spread across three expressive divisions (also unusual for the time, even in large organs).
The organ was ahead of its time, containing multiple expressive divisions and giving the performer considerable advantages over other even larger instruments of the day. It was almost identical (tonal characteristics, layout, and casework) to the instrument in Sheffield’s Albert Hall, which was destroyed by fire in 1937. However, when installed in Paris in 1905 by Cavaillé-Coll’s successor and son-in-law, Charles Mutin, a much plainer case substituted for the original ornate case.
The crypt, which has the same layout as the church, is one of the curiosities of the basilica. The central space of the crypt is occupied by the chapel of the Pietà which contains, in addition to a monumental statue of the Virgin at the foot of the Cross, tombs linked to important figures who marked this sacred place and the first stone of the basilica. The walkways of the ambulatory serve seven side chapels to the east, and seven side chapels to the west corresponding to the aisles of the basilica.
The apsidal chapel, dedicated to the Holy Family, is surmounted by a statue of the Sacred Heart. Work by Robert Falcucci made in 1960, it represents Christ, arms wide open and heart forward. A chapel dedicated to Saint Peter, raised on several steps, surrounded by columns, dominates the crypt and corresponds to the choir of the basilica.
The belfry of the basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre houses 5 bells, 4 small bells named from largest to smallest: Félicité, Louise, Nicole and Elisabeth, that were the original bells of the church of Saint-Roch and moved to the basilica in 1969. Below the 4 bells is a huge bourdon called “The Savoyarde”, the biggest bell in France, The real name of the bourdon is actually “Françoise Marguerite of the Sacred Heart of Jesus”. It was cast on May 13, 1891 by the Paccard foundry (Dynasty of Georges, Hippolyte-Francisque and Victor or “G & F”) in Annecy-le-Vieux.
The Savoyarde itself only rings for major religious holidays, especially on the occasion of Easter, Pentecost, Ascension, Christmas, Assumption and All Saints and can be heard from 10 km away. The presence of a crack would explain that it only rings exceptionally, as for example in 2010 for the celebration of 150 years of the attachment of Savoy to France. Another explanation would be that its swing weakens the campanile of the Sacred Heart in which it is suspended
This bell is the fifth largest in Europe, ranking behind the Petersglocke of Cologne (Germany), the Olympic Bell of London, Maria Dolens of Rovereto (Italy), and the Pummerin of Vienna (Austria). It weighs 18,835 kg, measures 3,03 m of diameter for 9.60 m of outer circumference, with a base thickness of 22 cm and a leaf of 850 kg. With its accessories, its official weight reaches 19,685 kg. It was offered by the four dioceses of Savoy and the arrival of the fardier at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on October 16, 1895, pulled by a team of 28 horses. It was rung only for major religious holidays, such as Easter, Pentecost, Ascension, Christmas, the Assumption and All Saints’ Day, and could be heard 10 km away.
Like any church, the Basilica bears the mark of the faith of those who designed, built, decorated it. The themed tours offered in the element like “animals”, “angels”, “symbols”, “scriptures”, “prayer”, “characters”, take another look at this great monument, by deciphering the meaning of the many mosaics, sculptures, stained glass windows…
Angels are pure spirits, created by God, whose glory they constantly contemplate and sing their praises. The liturgy celebrated by the Church on earth is a participation in this celestial liturgy: ” I saw the Lord seated on a grandiose and elevated throne. Her train filled the sanctuary. Seraphim stood above him (…). They cried out to each other these words: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord, God of the universe, heaven and earth are filled with his glory. (Isaiah 6, 1-3).
Guardian Angels – They are sent by God to watch over each of His children along the path that leads us to Him: “Be careful not to despise one of these little ones, for I tell you their angels in heaven see face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).
Archangel Gabriel – At each “Hail Mary” (AVE MARIA), we repeat the words of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, during the Annunciation: “The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin given in marriage to a man of the house of David, named Joseph. And the virgin’s name was Mary. The angel entered her home and said, ‘Hail, O Grace, the Lord is with you. (…) Behold, you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.’ (Luke 1, 26-31)
The Angels of Adoration – In the choir, two statues of angels carry the large monstrance where the consecrated Host, the Body of Christ, is found. He is “the Word made flesh” (John 1, 14), “God with us” (Matthew 1, 23). As at Christmas when Jesus was born, the angels surround the Body of the Lord with adoration: “The angel said to the shepherds: ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I come to announce good news to you, great joy for all the people: Today a Savior has been born to you in the city of David. He is the Messiah, the Lord. And this is the sign that is given to you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly, there was with the angel an innumerable celestial troop, which praised God saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to the men whom he loves’. (Luke 2, 8-14)
Angels of Passion – The angels represented under the dome present to us with deep respect the instruments of Christ’s Passion, signs of the greatest love (cross, spear, nails, crown of thorns, sponge soaked in vinegar, etc.): ” Jesus went out to surrender, as usual, to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. Arrived there, he said to them: “Pray, so as not to enter into temptation. Then he stepped back about a stone’s throw away. Kneeling, he prayed: ‘Father, if you will, remove this cup from me; however, let not my will be done, but yours.’ Then, from heaven, an angel appeared to him who comforted him. (Luke 22, 39-43)
The Angels of the Resurrection – Present near the empty tomb on Easter morning, they announce to the holy women the Resurrection of Christ: “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women went to the sepulchre, carrying the spices they had prepared. Now they found the stone rolled away from before the sepulchre, and having entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, two men, in dazzling clothes, presented themselves to them. As they were seized with fear and bowed their faces to the ground, they said to them, ‘Why do you seek among the dead the living one ? He is not here, he is risen.’ (Luke 24, 1-6)
Archangel Michael – He is the protective angel of the Church, and assists the faithful in the spiritual combat against the Evil One: “There was then a combat in heaven: that of Michael and his angels against the Dragon. The Dragon, too, fought with the help of his own, but they were the weakest and lost their place in the sky. Yes, he was rejected, the great Dragon, the serpent of the origins, the one called Demon and Satan, the one who led the whole world astray. (…) Then I heard a mighty voice in heaven proclaiming: ” Behold now the salvation, the power and the kingship of our God, and the power of his Christ ! For the accuser of our brethren has been rejected, he who accused them day and night before our God. (Revelation 12, 7-10)
The demons – They were angels created good by God, but who out of jealousy revolted against Him, choosing hatred rather than love, and now wanting to lead men to follow them. They are represented in the grotesque forms of gargoyles, expelled from the church. They have been conquered by the love of Christ lifted up on the Cross, and are driven out of the heart of man by Baptism: ” Now behold, the prince of this world is going to be cast out; and I, when I shall have been lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. (John 12, 31-32)
“Father of lies”, “the one who divides” and seeks to separate men from God, he is represented in the form of the vanquished serpent, under the feet of the Virgin Mary, according to the prophecy of Scripture: ” The Lord God said to the snake, ‘Because you have done this, you will be cursed among all the animals and all the beasts of the field. You will crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will put enmity between the woman and you, between her offspring and your offspring: her offspring will bruise your head, and you, you will bruise her heel. (Genesis 3, 14-15)
The Lamb – Symbol of innocence and gentleness, it represents Christ who offers his life for the salvation of the world: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world ” (John 1:29).
Fish – Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes to feed the hungry crowds, thus announcing the gift of the Eucharist (John 6, 8-11). The fish became the sign of recognition of the first Christians, because the letters of the Greek word, ΙXΘΥΣ (‘ ICTUS ‘, fish), are the initials of the confession of faith: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior”
The Pelican – It represents Christ who in the Sacrament of the Eucharist gives his Body and his Blood as food. (In ancient times, it was believed that the pelican fed its young with its own flesh): ” My flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I abide in him. (John 6, 55-56)
The Phoenix – This mythological bird of Greek Antiquity, able to be reborn from its ashes, became the symbol of Christ, rising from the dead: “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men; they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again”. (Matthew 17.22)
The Hen – Symbol of God’s ‘maternal’ concern for his people exposed to danger: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem (…), how many times have I wanted to gather your children as the hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you did not want… ! (Matthew 23:37)
The Eagle – It symbolizes the protection with which God surrounds his people along their path on earth, as during the Exodus for the people of Israel: “Like an eagle that awakens its brood and hovers above its young, it spreads its wingspan, it takes it, it carries it on its wings. The Lord alone led him.” (Deuteronomy 32, 11)
Rooster – It evokes the triple denial of Peter during the Passion of Jesus: “Amen, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will have denied me three times ” (Matthew 26:34). It is also the symbol of the Resurrection of Christ on Easter morning: “Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house will return, in the evening or at midnight, at cockcrow or in the morning” (Mark 13:35)
The Deer – It symbolizes God’s desire in prayer: “Like a thirsty deer that seeks living water, so my soul seeks you, my God. (Psalm 42).
The Snail – With the many small animals represented on the stalls of the choir, where the Divine Office is celebrated at different times of the day, he reminds us that all creation is invited to the praise of God: “All the works of the Lord, bless the Lord! (Daniel 3, 57)
The chrism – It symbolizes the recapitulation of all things in Christ. At the center of the universe (represented by a circle), at the center of History (represented by the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and omega), the first letters of the word ” Christ “, in Greek: from the Cross of Christ, through the Resurrection, springs peace, the reconciliation of humanity with God and of all men among themselves. “I am Alpha and Omega, says the Lord God, ‘He is, He was and He is to come’, the Master-of-all.” (Revelation 1:8)
Heart and flames – It is the symbol of the Heart of Jesus, true God and true Man. The Heart of Christ, pierced on the Cross, burns with an infinite love for God his Father, and with the infinite love of God for men, which is compared to a fire: “I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already lit!” (Luke 12:49)
The Dove – A symbol of peace, it represents the Holy Spirit, the third divine Person, who unites the Father and the Son within the Holy Trinity, and is communicated to us at Baptism: “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came out of the water; behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descend like a dove and come upon him. And from heaven a voice said, ‘This is my beloved Son; in him I put all my love’. (Matthew 3, 16-17)
The bread – On several occasions, Jesus multiplied the loaves to feed the hungry crowds, thus announcing the gift of the Eucharist. “Fruit of the earth and of the work of men”, the bread offered and consecrated at Mass by the priest becomes “the bread of eternal life”, the Body of Christ. “I am the living bread, which came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. (John 6, 51)
Wheat – Like bread, it is a symbol of the Eucharist. But the image of the grain of wheat also evokes the life of Jesus given by his death and resurrection: “Amen, amen, I say to you: if the grain of wheat fallen into the ground does not die, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24)
Vine – “Fruit of the vine and of the work of men”, the wine offered and consecrated at Mass by the priest becomes ” the wine of the eternal Kingdom “, the Blood of Christ. Jesus compared himself to the vine, to express the intimate relationship that unites him to all the baptized: “I am the vine, and you are the branches. He who abides in me and in whom I abide, he gives much fruit. (John 15:5)
The sea and the boat – The engulfing sea is a symbol of death. Jesus’ walk on the water (Mt 14:24-33) announces his victory over death, through the Resurrection. The boat of Peter where the Apostles are gathered represents the Church, sailing on the turbulent waves of the world, from where she calls men to life: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men. (Matthew 4:19)
The anchor – She is a symbol of hope. In the midst of the storms of the world and the turmoil of life, what assures the stability of the Christian and gives him the assurance of arriving safely, is his “anchor”, cast in Heaven: “The anchor of our hope is Christ, with the Father. (Cf. Hebrews 6, 19)
The Star of David – She reminds us that Jesus is “son of David” according to the flesh. At his birth in Bethlehem, the city of David, a star led the Magi from the East to the Crib to come and adore him. The star also symbolizes his resurrection from the dead on Easter morning, like the morning star: “I am the descendant and the son of David, the resplendent morning star. (Revelation 22:16)
The crown – The crown signifies that Christ is “King of the universe”. However, he does not exercise his power in the manner of men, but by giving his life out of love. Crucified under the title of “King of the Jews”, crowned with thorns, Jesus is henceforth “crowned with glory” by his Resurrection (Hebrews 2, 9). “Pilate said to him: ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered: ‘You say it: I am a king. I was born, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth. Every man who belongs to the truth listens to my voice’. (John 18, 37)
The lily – A symbol of purity, it is sometimes associated with Christ, sometimes with the Virgin Mary, sometimes with the Church, Spouse of Christ. A pure heart is a heart that loves God with undivided love. “Like the lily between thistles, like my beloved between young women. (Song 2, 2)
The mottos scattered throughout the Basilica, which are those of saints, bishops, or anonymous individuals, are for us like so many messages addressed to us beyond time.
Latin – In a troubled historical context, the Basilica was built following a wish from all of France to offer the Sacred Heart of Jesus a church that would be consecrated to him, as a sign of hope, trust and faith. The ribbon of writing that adorns the large mosaic of the choir expresses the fulfillment of this National Vow: “Sacratissimo Cordi Jesu Gallia poenitens et devota et gratia. “To the Sacred Heart of Jesus, France, penitent, fervent and grateful”. A ribbon engraved in the stone at the base of the dome unrolls the text of the Symbol of the Faith of the Church, the “I believe in God”, or CREDO. A little higher, the inscription “SACRATISSIMO” invites meditation and introduces into the most sacred space of the sanctuary, ” the Holy of Holies “, where the consecrated Host, the Blessed Sacrament, is exposed.
Hebrew – At the top of the Passion window, above the Cross, the Name of God appears, as it was revealed to Moses in the Burning Bush: “I AM who I am.” (Exodus 3, 14) “I AM WHO I AM.” (Exodus 3:14) “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will understand that I AM. (John 8:27)
The donors – Names, dates or acknowledgments engraved in stone, they were offered following a wish, in testimony of a prayer that was answered (healing, birth, protection, etc.). They can also be the name of benefactors, who ask the prayers of passers-by. These names inscribed in stone thus remind us that the Church of Christ is built of living stones, the baptized: “You also be the living stones which are used to build the spiritual Temple, and you will be the holy priesthood, in order to offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ ” (1 Peter 2, 5)
The Saints – The Saints are men and women who, despite their weaknesses, have lived on earth in friendship with God, loving Him and loving their brothers. After their death, they continue, with God, to pray for us and show us the way that leads to Him. By venerating the statue of Saint Peter, a replica of that of Saint Peter in Rome, the faithful ask the Apostle to “open the Kingdom of Heaven to them”, and express their fidelity to the Pope, successor of Peter. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the power of Death will not overcome her. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 16:18)
The Sacred Heart of Jesus – In the human heart of Jesus Christ burns the infinite love of God for men. Jesus manifested this love by giving his life on the Cross to save us from death: “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for those you love”. His Heart, pierced by the spear on the Cross (John 19, 33-37), and resurrected in glory (John 20, 26-29), remains open to all men: “Come to me, all you who labor under the weight of the burden, and I will relieve you. Take my yoke upon you, become my disciples, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11,28-29). At the feet of Christ: Saint Joan of Arc, France (who offers her crown), and Saint Michael, protector of France.
The Blessed Virgin Mary – On the Cross, Jesus gave us Mary as our mother. The Virgin Mary always leads us to Jesus. “Now, near the Cross of Jesus stood his mother (…). Jesus, seeing his mother, and near her the disciple whom he loved, said to his mother: ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple: ‘Here is your mother’. (John 19, 25-27)
The Great Pilgrims of the Sacred Heart – Among the pilgrims to the Basilica, some have become saints. They are presented to us as models, so that we too may advance on the path of holiness.
The Apostles – The twelve Apostles are represented on the main altar of the choir, with the instruments of their martyrdom: “Jesus went up the mountain and called those whom he wanted. They came to him, and he appointed twelve to be with him, and to send them out to preach with power to cast out evil spirits. (Mark 3, 13-15)
Old Testament Prophets – They surround the stalls of the choir, where the Divine Office is celebrated with the singing of the Psalms at different times of the day. They foretold the coming of the Savior, and their prophecies were fulfilled in Christ:”You are right to fix your attention on the word of the prophets, as on a lamp shining in the darkness, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1, 19)
Architects and Sculptors – Faces and busts appear around a pillar, a chapel or a dome… It is the architects and sculptors of the Basilica, famous or unknown, who signed their work in stone.
The Priests – They were called by Christ to leave everything to follow Him, to serve in His Name the people of God entrusted to them, to announce His Word, and to transmit His Life through the Sacraments: “You did not choose me, I chose you and appointed you to go, to bear fruit, and your fruit to remain. (John 15, 16) ” Come on then ! Make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; and teach them to keep all the commandments I have given you. (Matthew 28:19)
The Sisters – At the Basilica, the Benedictine Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre lead monastic life according to the three perpetual vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. Through the chanting of the Divine Office and the prayer of Eucharistic adoration, they bring before the Lord the intentions of the Church and of the world, and welcome into this sanctuary all those who seek God: “Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus lived, the one whom he had raised from the dead. A meal was given in honor of Jesus. Marthe was doing the service, Lazarus was with Jesus among the guests. Now, Mary had taken a pound of a very pure perfume and of very great value; she poured the perfume on Jesus’ feet, which she wiped with her hair; the house was filled with the smell of perfume. (John 12, 1-3)
The altar – This word means “that which is high”. From the altar ascends to God the offering of our lives, in Christ’s offering of love to his Father on the altar of the Cross: “I urge you, my brothers, by the tenderness of God, to offer your person and your life to him as a holy sacrifice, capable of pleasing God: this is true worship for you ” (Romans 12,1).
The cross – It is the sign of Christians, the sign of the love of Christ who gave his life for each man, the sign of love’s victory over evil and death: “Let our only pride be the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ: in Him we have salvation, life and the Resurrection ! (Cf. Galatians 6, 14)
Liturgical colors – The liturgical colors (ornaments, flowers, etc.) accompany the times and feasts of the year: Green for ordinary times; Purple for the time of expectation and purification of the heart (Advent, Lent, etc.);White for the times festive, which celebrate the victory of light and life (Christmas, Easter, etc.);Red, for love given to the end (gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, feast of martyrs, etc.)
Incense – “Let my prayer before you rise like incense and my hands like the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141)
The Blessed Sacrament – The Host consecrated by the priest at Mass is for Christians the Body of Christ, the real presence of the Lord Jesus, true God and true Man, to whom they address their love, prayer and adoration: “This is my body delivered for you” (1 Corinthians 11:24) ” And I am with you always until the end of the world. (Matthew 28:20)
The Gospel – This name means “Good News”. It is the word that the dead and risen Christ addresses to us during each liturgy: “The Word of God is alive, efficient and sharper than a two-edged sword; it penetrates to the depths of the soul. (Hebrews 4:12)
Candles – On the altar, near the Gospel book or the tabernacle, they indicate the presence of the risen Christ. In the church, they signify the prayer of the faithful, illuminated by Baptism: “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, he will have the light of life ” (John 8,12)
Trunks – “Looking up, Jesus saw rich people putting their offerings into the treasury chest. He also saw a wretched widow deposit two small coins there. Then he said, ” Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than everyone else. Because all those took from their superfluity to make their offering, but she took from her poverty: she gave everything she had to live on. (Luke 21,1-4)
Dome light – The light of the Dome means: “Here, day and night, someone prays to the Lord. ”
Holy water – On entering the Church, Christians plunge their hand into the water of the holy water font and mark their bodies with the sign of the Cross, in memory of their Baptism, and to dispose their hearts to meet God in prayer: “I have saw the living water flowing from the Heart of Christ, alleluia ! All those washed by this water will be saved and will sing: Alleluia !”
Confessionals – A priest is present there to give the sacrament of reconciliation (confession), for the forgiveness of sins: “The risen Jesus breathed his breath on the Apostles and said to them: ” Receive the Holy Spirit. Any man whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven him. (John 20, 22)
The bells – They ring on the first day of the week (Easter and Sunday), to announce the Resurrection of Christ and his victory over death: “The whole earth has seen the victory of our God: acclaim the Lord, whole earth, ring the bell, sing, play!” (Psalm 98)
The organ – His powerful voice evokes divine majesty. It accompanies the most solemn offices: Masses and Vespers on Sundays and feast days. “And I heard a voice from heaven like the voice of the oceans or of a great clap of thunder; but this voice which I heard was also like that of the musicians who sing while playing the harp. ” (Revelation 14,2)