Sacré-Coeur in Paris, Place du Tertre… the history of Montmartre goes back a long way. Archaeological excavations have shown that Montmartre was inhabited from at least Gallo-Roman times. Old texts refer to Mount Mars.
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In 1134, King Louis VI erected the church of Saint-Pierre de Montmartre and founded the Royal Abbey of Montmartre, which was a monastery of the Benedictine order. It became a popular pilgrimage site, partly because it was told that Saint Denis had been decapitated where the chapel Martyrium was built. The monastery covered most of the hill at the time. Unfortunately, the Abbey was destroyed during the French Revolution.
Later, during the 1590 Siege of Paris, Henry IV placed artillery at Montmartre! Next, it was occupied by Russian soldiers during the Battle of Paris in 1814! In 1871, it was the focal point of a revolutionary uprising, when soldiers from the French Army decided to remove the cannon!
In its ‘recent’ heyday in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Belle Époque, Montmartre was really ‘hot’ in Paris. Painters have always come here to socialise and share their ideas about art – it was a cultural melting pot and, in many respects, still is!
Many famous artists have over their years made Montmartre’s cafés their home in Paris. This includes painters of world-class such as Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vicent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Salvador Dalí, and Joan Miró. It is possible to locate some of their old studios and houses.
However, the outbreak of World Water I put an end to cultural life around the Place du Tertre. Most of the artists moved down to the Montparnasse quarter.
Some of the famous artists and creators have been buried at the Cimetière de Montmartre, e.g., the painter Edgar Degas and the director François Truffaut.
Still today, Montmartre is the epitome of portrait painting with the artists coming to work among the crowd of visitors. A local and village-like atmosphere characterises the cobbled streets and picturesque spots around the Place du Tertre. You can have your portrait painted or drawn by a professional artist in the famous square that has always appealed to artists. When you get hungry, a wide range of traditional French bistros and restaurants offer everything from the tourist menu to local recipes and sublime French cuisine, mostly preserving the cultural charm and romantic ambience of the artistic district.
In the historic neighbourhood you will find famous places such as the Café des Deux Moulins and Au Cadet de Gascogne, with a top location at the Place du Tertre.
The streets around the Place du Tertre are perfect for a stroll to soak up the atmosphere – whether in the morning, the afternoon, or the evening. Depending on when you set out to explore the neighbourhood, you will experience different people and settings. If you remember the film ‘Amélie’, you may recognise the setting from the film up here, where you can follow in the footsteps of ‘Amélie de Montmartre’. The quaint district is also the setting of several other films.
Besides the old charm, the summit of the hill is also a nightclub district – and you will find lots of entertainment at Montmartre. One of the famous cabaret places is Au Lapin Agile.
There is also the Musée Montmartre where you can catch a glimpse of the history of the ‘artist colony’.
One of the real gems of Montmartre is the still existing vineyard crawling down the slope of the 130 m high Butte. The Clos Montmartre vineyard (still with a wine production) in the Rue Saint-Vincent is a reminiscence of the rural area that covered part of the hill until well into the 1900s.
Other structures belonging to the olden days were the windmills of Montmartre. The first mill was built in 1529, serving to grind wheat, barley, and rye. There used to be 13 mills atop the hill. Today, there are still two left, the Moulin Radet and the Moulin de la Galette which are favoured motifs for photography!
So is the pink house (La Maison Rose) a stone’s throw down the Place du Tertre. People flock here 24/7 to take the best photos – preferably without others in the picture.
Another building adding to the romance at Montmartre is the Moulin Rouge – which has nothing to do with a windmill and never has had. It is the original venue of cancan, the French cabaret show seeing the light of day at the Moulin Rouge in 1889, founded by Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler. The butte became famous for its cabarets, cafés, dancing, and intellectual spirit. Le Char Noir was one of the nineteenth-century entertainment establishments that attracted writers and poets.
The top sight (which it literally is!) of Paris, that everyone comes to admire, is the famous and eye-catching basilica Sacré-Coeur and its beautiful dome. The white construction is a visible landmark all over Paris. It was built in the years 1875 to 1914, designed by Paul Abadie. In its Romano-Byzantine architectural style, it is a spectacular masterpiece that soars high above the city. Inside the Sacré-Coeur basilica you will find the largest mosaic in France!
To arrive at the Sacré-Coeur from ‘lower’ Paris, you can either go up the steep stairs on foot – or you can take the small funicular from the Place Saint-Pierre. Whatever you choose, you will be rewarded with the most panoramic and breathtaking view of all Paris when you reach the hilltop with the spectacular cupola (which is especially beautiful against a blue sky)!
At the foot of the hill, you will find the square with the old merry-go-round (where Amélie also played around). It is an amazing piece of cultural heritage that still exists and serves as a popular attraction for children and adults who fancy an iconic ride.
Montmartre, Place du Tertre, Sacré-Coeur Paris – History & Cultural Heritage
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Montmartre in Paris – Place du Tertre – Sacre Coeur Paris