Located on a 130m (425ft) hill in the north of Paris, Montmartre is one of the true icons of Paris. The district is famed for Basilica of the Sacred Heart, which crowns the hill, the church of Sainte Pierre de Montmartre, which claims to be where the Jesuit order was founded and of course it’s Place du Tertre, home of the artists.
The districts present name recalls the martyrdom of Saint Denis, Bishop of Paris and today Patron Saint of France, who was decapitated there around 250AD thus giving us the “mountain of the martyr” or Montmartre.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Basilique du Sacré Cœur)
After the Franco-Prussian war of 1871, public subscription saw 7 million French Francs (€1.1 million) for the Basilica to be built to overcome the suffering of the Parisians had suffered through the war. With its foundation stone being laid on the 16th June 1875 and being completed in 1919, the building became a memorial to the 58,000 who lost their lives during the war.
Cafés & Nighclubs
The second half of the 18th century Montmartre became a centre of entertainment and socialising. The Chat Noir (photo) was founded on Montmarte in 1881 by Rodolphe Salis and quickly became a popular haunt for writers and poets. The Moulin Rouge was opened in 1899 at the foot of the butte and became the birthplace of the French Can Can. These inspired others and soon the cabarets saw singers such as Eric Satie, Yvette Guilbert, Marcelle Lender and La Goulue all perfoming there.
The Artists gather
From the late 18th century until the outbreak of World War I, Butte (hill) Montmartre became a popular place for artists to gather. The close proximity of the Paris red light district, Pigalle, along with the numerous nightclubs and cabarets that had sprung up at that time meant that the rents for the district where low. Pierre-Auguste Renoir rented an apartment there in 1876 where he painted ‘Bal du Moulin de la Galette’ (photo), as did Pablo Picasso who painted his ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ whilst living there also. The outbreak of World War 1 saw many of the artists relocate to the Montparnasse quarter, however by that time names such as Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Pierre Brissaud, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec had all passed through the area.
Today Montmartre is a glorious reminder of a wonderful period that today we call the ‘Belle Époque’, and a highlight of any visit to Paris
A visit to Montmarte as available with;