France commune

Paris Sacré-Coeur classified as historic despite a bloody history

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Paris (AFP)- The Basilica of the Sacred Heart atop the Butte Montmartre in Paris will finally be classified as a protected historical monument, ending a long dispute rooted in the city’s bloody revolutionary history.

Despite welcoming 11 million visitors a year – second only to Notre Dame Cathedral – authorities have always been reluctant to grant it the extra funds and protection that come with status.

This is because the basilica was a deliberate symbol, commissioned by conservatives, to mark the brutal crushing of anti-church revolutionaries after the Commune uprising of 1871.

“From the start, the building was associated with a very divisive political fringe: the ultra-Catholics”, explains Eric Fournier, historian at the University of the Sorbonne.

“It was a way of subduing a district deemed insurrectionary… but also of erasing the memories of the Commune of 1871 and of all the revolutions since 1789”, he added.

Construction lasted from 1875 to 1923 and remained a source of bitterness on the left – until the vote on its status at the Paris Council this week.

Communist representative Raphaelle Primet called it an “odious religious edifice built on the bodies of around 30,000 people” and “an affront to the memory of the Communards”.

But Fournier, although on the left, said the argument was no longer relevant “when you see how familiar the monument has become over the years”.

A heritage official noted that the new statute also included the nearby Place Louise Michel, named after one of the most famous French revolutionaries of the time.

“It allows a dialogue between two stories without leaving either of them forgotten.”

The statute has concrete advantages, with 40% of maintenance costs now covered by the state.

There are already plans for better disabled access and renovation of the organ, with a longer-term project to open the crypt to visitors.

Local authorities then hope to obtain UNESCO World Heritage status for the entire Montmartre hill.