Sacré Couer, Paris, France

There can be few churches as distinctive as the Basilica of the Sacré Couer, standing high on Montmartre. Its white domes and towers always reminiscent of the Taj Mahal it was built between 1875 and 1914. For some reason the church always looks slight too thin for its height, probably because the Dome is not a hemisphere but a half-oval.

The church was the dream of two Catholic businessmen, Alexandre Legentil and Rohault de Fleury, who made a vow at the outbreak of the Prussian War to build a church to the Sacred Heart of Christ. They lived to see Paris under siege, but saved, and the beginnings of this church at the top of Montmartre hill.

Just as the church was completed the Germans invaded and so it wasn't consecrated until after World War I in 1919. The top of the Dome is Paris' second highest point (after the top of the Eiffel Tower) and affords some superb views of the Beauborg and Tuilleries Quarters.

The interior of the Sacré Couer is surprisingly dark, but is decorated in traditional Catholic method with much gilt-work and frescoes. A walk up to the top of the Dome is one of the highlights of a visit, although not for the faint-hearted as part of the walk is up the outside of the building.

The sight of the Sacré Couer from the foot of the steps is one of the most heart-warming in Paris and the famous artists quarter of Montmartre never disappoints.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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