By James M’Kenzie-HallPoint of Departure : Metro Place Blanche
A few words before we begin our Montmartre walk. It is best to visit Montmartre in the early morning , say 9 am, before the tour buses have had a chance to unload their clients. In this way you will be able to wander the streets just as the shops are opening and discover some of the village atmosphere which has made Montmartre such an attractive part of Paris.
In fact Montmartre is built on a hill so be prepared on this walk to tackle an occasional flight of steps and the odd gentle slope.
We start our walk at the Place Blanche in front of the Moulin Rouge Cabaret. The Metro station is called Blanche and is on Metro line number two – the direction being either Porte Dauphine if you’re going west or Nation if you’re travelling in an easterly direction. Unlike London , where lines are colour coded, here in Paris direction is indicated by the last stop on any given line . Buses 30 and 54 stop at Place Blanche.
At the time of the French Revolution in 1789 Paris was surrounded by a wall known as the Farmers General Wall. The Farmers General were private individuals who had bought the right to collect certain indirect taxes. The Place Blanche is on the site of one of the gates to the city of Paris where a merchant would have to pay a tax or a toll on any goods he intended selling inside Paris. It is easy to see where the walls were in northern Paris by looking at a map and following the Boulevards from Place de Clichy past Place Blanche going east towards Pigalle. When they built the Metro in 1900 they just followed the same route.
By the mid nineteenth century the population of Paris had outgrown the size of the old city walls and they were pulled down. Whole areas that had once been in the countryside were developed including Montmartre, one of the first villages a Parisian would come across as he left the old city. By the annexation of 1860 Montmartre became the 18th district of Paris. Look for the blue coloured signs with the name of the street on them in white and you will notice numbers, on the north side towards the Moulin Rouge the number will be 18 and on the south side it will be 9 referring to the Arrondissement or district. Paris is made up of 20 districts starting with the lowest number beside the River Seine such as 1,2,3 and 4 districts and the further out you are the higher the number of the district such as 18,19 and 20.
Place Blanche means ‘White Square’ and opposite the Moulin Rouge is the Rue Blanche or ‘White Road’ going down towards the river Seine. The reason why there is such emphasis on the word ‘white’ is that the hill of Montmartre was used as a quarry for plaster of Paris and as the cartloads of quarried gypsum negotiated and jostled their way through the gates of Paris and headed towards the Seine to be loaded onto barges a substantial amount of plaster must have been spilt on the way.
Today the Place Blanche is dominated by the Moulin Rouge Cabaret literally the ‘Red Windmill’ - opened in 1889 the same year as the Eiffel Tower. It is a play on words as on the top of the hill of Montmartre were a series of windmills grinding up flour and no doubt the flour also spilled as it negotiated the city gate at Place Blanche . But the Cabaret was ‘Red’ because it was located in the ‘naughty’ area of Paris just down the road from Pigalle or ‘Pig Alley’ as the American troops called the Red Light district at the Liberation of Paris in August 1944. Brothels played a huge role in French life until they were banned in 1945. In 1883 a guide mentions 99 Brothels in Paris and 11 in the suburbs. Toulouse Lautrec died in 1901 of syphilis and excess of alcohol aged 37, Baudelaire, Manet, Guy de Maupassant and Gauguin probably died of it as well.
The Moulin Rouge was immortalized by the posters of Toulouse Lautrec depicting the dancers La Goulue, Jane Avril and Valentin ‘le désossé’ or boneless wonder . The best known of the Montmartre cabarets ,the Moulin Rouge is the continuation of a long tradition of cabarets going back to the seventeenth century. The existence of so many cabarets in Montmartre can be explained by the fact that the slopes of the hill of Montmartre were covered with vines and that small Guinguettes or Country Inns, called ‘cabarets’ in French, sprang up just outside the city walls tempting Parisians to sample the cheap local wine and other more carnal entertainments. In 1729 a survey of shops in Montmartre stated 134 out of 165 were Guinguettes or Cabarets. By the end of the nineteenth century these guinguettes had been replaced by dance-halls ; the two most famous during the Belle Epoque being the Moulin Rouge and the Moulin de la Galette, often depicted in the pictures of Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and Utrillo.
To the right of the Moulin Rouge is rue Lepic – a typical market street which we shall now go up.Over the last twenty years this traditional market street has been gradually transformed, there are less fruit, vegetable,meat and fish shops and more clothing and accessory shops yet still the street has kept it charm . The last horse butcher has closed to be replaced by a mobile phone store perhaps a sign of the times. However this was the street chosen by Jean-Pierre Jeunet for his film ‘Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain’ starring Audrey Tautou. ‘Amélie’s Café’ is half way up rue Lepic on the left hand side called Les Deux Moulins and anyone who has seen the film will recognize the interior with its typical ‘zinc’ bar counter. Nearby are particularly mouth-watering Boulangeries or Bakeries where the locals will go at least twice, if not three times a day to buy their bread. Traditionally they will buy stick loaves known as Baguettes but stick bread comes in different sizes from a thin ‘ficelle’ literally ‘thread’ up to a large family size ‘Quatre cents grammes’ or 400 grammes size. You can also get them to cut you half a baguette or even ask for a ‘Batard’ or ‘bastard’ which is a stunted loaf. You will also find Croissants –small crescent shaped rolls of bread , either plain or with almonds ‘croissant amandes’, pain au chocolat with a chocolate filled centre and pain aux raisins rather like currant buns. An alternative to bread is ‘Brioche’, a plain bun made of yeast, eggs, butter and flour usually made in a circular shape. Tradition has it that when in 1789 Queen Marie-Antoinette was told about the lack of bread in Paris she replied ‘Well let them eat Brioche’, often translated as ‘let them Eat Cake’ – a rather naïve comment considering there was no food at all but it shows how Brioche was an acceptable alternative to bread. In general French usage if a man develops a bit of a paunch it can be referred to as a brioche or as a ‘coussin d’amour’ –literally a ‘love cushion’ .
We stop at the top of rue Lepic where it intersects with rue des Abbesses. The origins of rue Lepic go back to 1809 when Napoleon visited the top of the hill of Montmartre on horseback –he found the going so difficult he ordered the construction of a road good enough for both horses and carriages . At first it was called the ‘Emperor’s’ road but in 1864 it’s name was changed to Lepic after the General who defended Montmartre in 1814 against the advancing Cossack troops.
Rue Lepic continues in a curve to the left on the other side of rue des Abbesses and it was at number 54 rue Lepic on the third floor that Vincent Van Gogh stayed with his brother Theo between 1886 and 1888. A small plaque commemorates his stay where he painted a quarter of his total output, perhaps inspired by the artistic atmosphere of Montmartre where he met Gauguin and had a passing acquaintance with many of the Impressionist painters. While staying at number 54 Van Gogh painted a view of the rooftops of rue Lepic now in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. Indeed it was Toulouse-Lautrec who suggested that Van Gogh might like to paint in Provence where Cézanne was painting. Vincent left Paris for Arles , rented a room in the little yellow house and was joined briefly by Gauguin. His letters back to Theo in Paris evoke his passions and his descent into madness, the mutilation of his ear and his time spent in an asylum at St Paul de Mausole just outside St Rémy de Provence. By 1890 Theo had married and wished that his brother move closer to Paris so Vincent spent the last three months of his life just north of Paris at Auvers-sur-Oise under the care of Doctor Gachet painting furiously 70 paintings in 70 days before finally shooting himself at the age of 37. Both Vincent and Theo are buried in the cemetery at Auvers. Vincent did not make any money from his art but in May 1990 his portrait of Doctor Gachet was sold at auction for 82.5 million dollars making it one of the most expensive paintings in the world. Another portrait of Doctor Gachet can be seen in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
Instead of continuing up the second half of rue Lepic we return to rue des Abbesses and stop on the corner of rue Tholozé where there is a café-tabac called Le Nazir. From here you have a good view of the last remaining Windmill on the hill of Montmartre. It is the Moulin de la Galette, the former dance-hall which Renoir painted in 1876 and Van Gogh in 1886. Renoir’s Moulin de la Galette was also sold at auction in May 1990 for 78 million dollars making it the third most expensive painting at that time. Another version can be seen at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. ‘Galette’ is a buck-wheat pancake a bit like a ‘crepe’ but more the colour and consistency of a chamois leather one uses to wipe the windows of a car . You can select a sweet or savoury filling for a galette. Often sold alongside ‘Gaufres’ which are waffles.
There have been windmills on the hill of Montmartre since the middle ages and in the seventeenth century there were at least thirty. The mills were used to grind the corn grown on the plain of Saint Denis to the north of Montmartre now a suburb of Paris where the Stade de France Football stadium now stands. Even during Renoir’s lifetime there would have been windmills on the hill of Montmartre but at the time of Renoir’s death in 1919 nearly all the windmills had disappeared as Paris expanded and the old cornfields were sold off as building plots.
Tradition has it that when the Cossacks attacked Montmartre in 1814 the Moulin de la Galette was defended by four brothers called Debray whose family owned the mill. During the fighting all the brothers were killed. The last one being cut into four and attached to each sail of the windmill. The surviving son of the eldest Debray brother later turned the windmill into a dance hall. Whether this gruesome story is true or not there is certainly a Debray tomb with a windmill on top of it in the little cemetery next to the church of Saint Pierre de Montmartre at the top of the hill opposite the Place du Tertre, better known as the ‘Artist’s Square’.
We continue along rue des Abbesses until the Place des Abbesses and stop next to the Abbesses Metro Station entrance.
The Place des Abbesses is an appropriate point to consider the origins of Montmartre. What does Montmartre mean ? There have been several interpretations. Obviously ‘Mont’ comes from the Latin ‘Mons’ meaning ‘Hill’ but the ‘Martre’ part has caused considerable discussion. The hill of Montmartre is the highest point in Paris and has been used since pagan times as a sacred place. During the Roman occupation of Paris a Temple was built dedicated either to Mars or more likely Mercury, who was the messenger of the Gods. The name could therefore derive from either Mons Mars or Mons Mercure. A more recent explanation surrounds the Legend of Saint Denis – the first Christian martyr of Paris. According to Hilduin, Abbot of Saint Denis in the ninth century, Dionysius or Denis was martyred for his faith by the Romans in the third century A.D. When St Denis was condemned to death along with his companions Eleutherius and Rusticus , the execution was fixed to take place on the top of Montmartre in front of the Temple of Mercury. The Roman soldiers tiring of going all the way to the top of the hill reasoned that they might as well execute their prisoners half way up. According to the legend, once his head had been cut off, St Denis picked it up, went to a nearby fountain, washed it and continued up the hill and down the other side finally expiring in a cornfield. Later a chapel was built on the site which became in time the abbey of Saint Denis . The legend was a great success and the Abbey grew extremely rich and is where most of the Kings of France were buried.
The Place des Abbesses is near the site where it is presumed St Denis, Eleutherius and Rusticus were decapitated. In the middle ages a Martyrium was founded in what is now the rue Yvonne Le Tac (just east of the Metro Abbesses beside the Post Office). In 1534 Ignatius de Loyola with Francis Xavier and five others met in the crypt of the Martyrium and founded the Compagnie de Jésus or Jesuits. The original aims of the Society in the sixteenth century were to combat the views of the Reformation and to spread Christianity among the heathen.
In 1686 an Abbey was built around the Martyrium whose entrance was in the Place des Abbesses but everything was destroyed in the French Revolution when Montmartre was briefly renamed ‘Mont Marat’ after the Revolutionary Marat was murdered in his bath by Charlotte Corday. The last Abbess of Montmartre, 71 year old Louise de Montmorency-Laval was condemned to death on July 2nd 1794 by the revolutionary tribunal although she was deaf and practically blind but the public prosecutor Fouquier-Tinville, on being told this, said ‘put her down as being blind and deaf to the Revolution’.
The Metro Abbesses is one of the deepest underground stations in Paris. The entrance canopy is by Hector Guimard in the art nouveau style. The Metro system was built in 1900 as part of the plan to welcome visitors to the 1900 Paris World Fair. Guimard was told to make the Metro entrances interesting so people would venture underground. The lettering and plant-like forms are typical Guimard style and people referred to his architecture as ‘noodle and bones’. Nearby is a drinking-water fountain in green . These fountains were given to the poorer quarters of Paris by the English philanthropist Sir Richard Wallace and are known as ‘Wallace Fountains’ ,although as the French do not pronounce the W the English way it sounds like ‘Vallace’ hence WC’s are pronounced ‘doubla vay say’ and a BMW car ‘Bay em doubla vay’. Sir Richard gave the City of Paris some fifty drinking water fountains and spent over two and a half million francs on charitable work in Paris. After his death in 1890 his principal London residence, Hertford House in Manchester Square became the home of the Wallace Collection.
Constructed at almost the same time as the metro entrance and opposite you is the Church of St Jean de Montmartre built between 1894 and 1904 out of re-inforced concrete and faced with brick. The locals call it ‘St John of the Bricks’ . There is a memorial to the architect , Anatole de Baudot , on the left behind the entrance gates.
As you face the Church turn right past the LCL – Credit Lyonnais Bank, past an archway and turn up the first steep road on the right –the Rue Ravignan. At the top is a charming small tree lined square –the Place Emile Goudeau with another Wallace fountain and benches. It was here that Napoleon gave up his attempt to reach the top of the hill on horseback and completed his journey on foot which led to the construction of rue Lepic. The Square was the site of a Guinguette or Inn called the Pear Tree and for many years the Square was called Place du Poirier after the tree which even had a table amongst the branches for the more acrobatic of the Inn’s customers. The Inn disappeared around 1830.
At the back of the Square to the right of the Hotel is the Bateau Lavoir at number 13, sometimes known as the birthplace of Cubism. By 1900 Paris was the artistic centre of the world. Among the artists still painting in 1900 were Cézanne, Degas, Gauguin, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec. At the Great Exhibition held in Paris in 1900 the worldwide fame of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists was firmly established. After 1900 many young up and coming artists made straight for Paris among them Modigliani, Chagall, Braque, Brancusi and Picasso.
Some of these artists looking for cheap accommodation were attracted to the oddly named Bateau-Lavoir which roughly translated means ‘Ship’s Washouse’ providing lodgings in a wooden building also nick-named the ‘Trapper’s Cabin’. There is a display of photographs in the window of the Bateau-Lavoir showing the original building- called ship because the interior looked like the gangways of a ship and washhouse because ironically there was only one tap for all the rooms. Unfortunately the original Bateau-Lavoir burnt down just before it was due to be restored. The new Bateau-Lavoir dates from 1978.
Among the artists living at the old Bateau-Lavoir was Picasso, who,in 1907, began painting ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ generally considered as the first ever Cubist picture and rather rudely parodied by Dan Brown in his recent bestseller ‘ Da Vinci Code’ as an anagram of ‘vile meaningless doodles’ . The original is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York but you can see a copy in the window of the Bateau-Lavoir. Although called ‘Ladies from Avignon’ Picasso was painting neither Ladies nor were they from Avignon. Following a long tradition Picasso was painting a brothel scene aka Degas or Toulouse-Lautrec but he set his prostitutes in the red light district of the Calle d’Avinyo in Barcelona – an area Picasso lived in when he was an art student in Spain. While living in Barcelona he had seen magazines showing the latest art from Paris and he not only was inspired by the paintings, he also dressed like Toulouse-Lautrec in top hat and cane and frequented a cabaret called the Four Cats. Picasso began by painting typical Spanish faces. He was then influenced by seeing African primitive sculptures and the paintings of Ingres such as his Turkish Bath and other bathing beauties as well as the individual style of Cézanne, some of whose paintings had been on display at a Memorial exhibition in Paris in 1907. The word cubism was coined out of Picasso’s attempt to give an ordered geometrical structure to the whole picture. The picture created a sensation and by 1908 the Bateau-Lavoir had attracted a group of painters and poets including Picasso, Braque, Max Jacob, Apollinaire and Juan Gris.Montmartre remained the artistic centre of Paris up to the beginning of the First World War with groups of painters following all sorts of ‘Isms’ from Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism and even Dadaism. In May 2004 Picasso’s ‘Boy with a Pipe’ sold for 104 million dollars at Sotheby’s in New York making it the most expensive painting in the world. Picasso was 24 years’ old and living in Montmartre when he painted this picture in 1905 during his ‘Rose’ period. It represents a local boy ‘little Louis’ who ran errands for Picasso , later Picasso added a crown of Roses giving this painting a mysterious quality.This 39 by 32 inch painting was bought for the Whitney Collection in 1950 for 30,000 dollars . Picasso’s total output is estimated at 30,000 . He dominates the top ten all time most expensive paintings sold at auction and sales of Picassos turn over 75 million dollars a year and will continue to do so for quite some time. Picasso is market leader for prints and ceramics, number two in drawings, number four in paintings. Every year approximately 1,400 Picasso art works are sold.
Continue up the rue Ravignan until you come to the Place Jean-Baptiste Clément, author of the revolutionary song ‘Cherry-Time’ and member of the Montmartre Commune which, after France’s defeat by Prussia in 1870-71 seized power and ruled Paris for two months until the last resistants were massacred in Père-Lachaise Cemetery. Jean-Baptiste Clément is buried in the Communist section of Père-Lachaise opposite the wall of the Federals where 147 Communards were stood against a wall and shot. For many years Montmartre had a Bohemian reputation but between the two world wars the creative people moved to the Montparnasse area on the left bank and Montmartre began a steady decline. Today however it is no longer a ‘Quartier Populaire’ given the steady rise in House prices , the locals tend to live on the north side of ‘La Butte’ – the Hill as they call it , leaving the tourists the top of the hill and the south and east sides. Since the film ‘Amélie’ came out in the year 2000 a new breed has begun to move into the area, the so-called BOBO’s of Montmartre, standing for Bourgeois-Bohemian , young monied middle class people moving out of more traditional bourgeois areas where their parents live and buying up property in Montmartre. This has made Montmartre trendy again, the word trendy in French being ‘Branché’ which literally means ‘plugged-in’ like an electrical appliance. If you are not trendy then you are ‘Débranché’ or ‘unplugged’ . The super trendy speak in a reverse language so Branché is reversed and becomes Chébran , a language spoken by 15 year olds to bamboozle their parents . Words like Café become Féca, Femme is Meuf , Fete for a party is reversed and becomes Teuf. Text Messages called textos in French have accelerated the process until everyone knows a little of this language called ‘Verlan’ from ‘A l’envers’ or Backwards.
At the top of the Square Jean-Baptiste Clément is an octagonal Tower looking rather like a Temple. It was one of the first water towers in Montmartre and opposite at number 10 is a plaque showing its original size. Just beyond the former Water tower is a crossroads where the rue des Norvins, rue des Saules and the rue Saint Rustique meet. At the corner of the crossroads is the Restaurant-Cabaret La Bonne Franquette. The plaque on the façade indicates the many artists who frequented it including Van Gogh who painted La Guinguette or Pleasure Garden. The rue Saint Rustique is named after Rusticus one of the companions of Saint Denis – it is one of the oldest and least spoilt streets in Montmartre running behind the hustle and bustle of the restaurants lining rue des Norvins . One can glimpse the Dome of Sacré Coeur at the end of the street- a view often represented by Maurice Utrillo and his countless imitators.
From La Bonne Franquette go down the rue des Saules to have a look at the last remaining vineyard on the hill of Montmartre. You will find it at the corner of the rue des Saules and the rue Saint Vincent on your right after the rue Cortot. Vines were introduced to France before the Roman occupation and there has been a long tradition of vineyards on the hill of Montmartre . Just inside the gate to the vineyard is a plaque indicating that Poulbot ‘peintre des gosses’ saved the site. ‘Gosses’ is the slang word for children – often the kids of Montmartre are called ‘P’tit Poulbots’ in memory of the painter.
At the end of the grape-picking season in October there is a festival here and the wine is auctioned off to the highest bidder. It is said that if you drink the wine by the glass you pee by the pint .
Opposite the vineyard at number 4 rue des Saules is the Cabaret du Lapin Agile. This guinguette was much frequented in the late nineteenth century and was firstly called ‘The Rendez-vous of Thieves’ then after the crimes of the murderer Troppmann it became known as the ‘Cabaret of Assassins’ and finally in 1880 a new Inn sign was painted showing a Rabbit nimbly leaping out of a pan with a bottle of wine in its paw. The Cabaret was called ‘Lapin Agile’ –the agile or nimble Rabbit – actually a play on words as the artist who painted the sign was André Gill hence ‘Lapin à Gill’. It was here that a practical joke was played on the art world. In 1910 the writer Roland Dorgeles (now the name of the small square opposite) borrowed the owner’s donkey called Aliboron and attached a paintbrush to its tail. The idea had come out of a discussion about modern art and that anyone can do it – much the same remark can be heard today . The donkey swished his tail and a rather abstract painting was created in front of witnesses including a lawyer. The painting was entitled ‘Sunset over the Adriatic’ and the name of the artist was Boronali - an anagram of the donkey’s name. The painting was then submitted to the Salon des Indépendants where it was purchased. Then Dorgeles wrote an article revealing all. The name Aliboron came from a donkey in one of La Fontaine’s Fables and came to symbolize a foolish person.
Facing the Lapin Agile is the cemetery of Saint Vincent hidden by high ivy-clad walls. Maurice Utrillo who died in 1955 is buried here as is the composer Honegger who died the same year. Other tombs include the painter Eugene Boudin (1898) one of the first to discover Monet’s talent . The writer Marcel Aymé (1967) and Roland Dorgeles (1973);
Return past the vineyard and take the first road to the left – rue Cortot- following signs to the Museum of Montmartre at 12 rue Cortot. In 1875 whilst painting the Moulin de la Galette Renoir stayed here. Among artists who had studios here were Raoul Dufy, Suzanne Valadon and her son Maurice Utrillo.
Suzanne Valadon ex acrobat and artist’s model and former mistress of Toulouse-Lautrec moved to 12 rue Cortot in 1896 and made a living by painting. By the age of 16 her son , Maurice Utrillo was an alcoholic and tradition has it that he was encouraged to take up painting as a cure from alcoholism. The first paintings by Utrillo are views of the rue Cortot. From the beginning Utrillo concentrated on painting the streets of Montmartre. It is interesting to note that many of Utrillo’s paintings are street scenes with the windows firmly shuttered and hardly a soul on the street. Maybe a reaction from the abuse this timid man received from the locals as he wandered drunkenly about Montmartre. In 1909 when Suzanne Valadon was 44 years old she took as her lover, a friend of her son’s called André Utter, then in his early twenties and the son of a local plumber. By 1910 Valadon,Utter and Utrillo were living together – a stormy relationship which was to last until well into the 1920s. Among Utrillo’s many drinking companions before the First World War was the Italian artist Modigliani. Utrillo ,often unwelcome at home ,used to wander the streets of Montmartre night and day and it has been said he painted to drink and drank to paint. His paintings seem to reflect his solitude. He regarded his mother as a saint never reproaching her as she did him. After the First World War Utrillo began to be noticed by the dealers who were looking for another success like the Impressionists. Suzanne Valadon died in 1938 at the age of 73. Her last picture was a Vase of flowers on which she’d written ‘Vive la Jeunesse’. Utrillo lived for a further 17 years always faithful to Montmartre. One of his last pictures was a view from the Place du Tertre of the Dome of the Sacré Coeur.
Continue along the rue Cortot and at the end where there is a tall concrete water tower turn right into the rue Mont-Cenis which leads you into a Square in front of the Eglise Saint Pierre and the edge of the bustling Place du Tertre – the Artist’s Square.
The Church of Saint Pierre of Montmartre was founded as a convent by Adelaide of Savoy wife of Louis VI, known as Louis the fat of France in 1147. When Henry of Navarre, later Henry IV laid siege to Catholic Paris in the late sixteenth century he came and lodged at the convent. The Abbess was a beautiful aristocrat ,Claude de Beauvilliers and she was only 17 years old. Protestant Henry took her as his mistress and his officers followed his example so that the Catholics called the convent ‘the whorehouse of the protestant army’.
Unfortunately for Claude de Beauvilliers she rather foolishly introduced Henry IV to her cousin, Gabrielle d’Estrées who replaced her as the King’s mistress. In 1686 the convent moved down the hill to a new building surrounding the Martyrium at Place des Abbesses and the old convent fell into ruin.
The interior of the church of St Pierre is one of the oldest in Paris pre-dating Notre-Dame Cathedral by some sixteen years. The oldest surviving part is the choir . Opposite the Sacristy door is a Romanesque capital showing the Vice ‘Luxury’ personified as a man riding backwards on a goat and lifting its tail. The Church also contains 4 rather dark and flakey marble columns that may have come from the Roman Temple of Mercury and were re-used in the building of the present church. Two are on either side of the main west door and two with metal bands round them are in the choir just behind the altar. The façade dates from the eighteenth century with modern bronze doors by Gismondi. The stained glass is by Max Ingrand and dates from 1954. In 1794 a Telegraph was installed in a tower on top of the apse called Telegraph Chappe after its inventor and it was here that the result of the Battle of Waterloo were first received. The news took 17 minutes to arrive from the Battlefield whereas the Times newspaper printed the news four days later on Thursday 22 June 1815. In the meantime a representative of the Rothschild bank sent a pigeon to London. Rothschild started selling government stock, people panicked thinking Wellington had lost and then Rothschild began buying it all up and making a fortune – an early example of insider trading ?
Look across at the tree-lined square. Once the Gallows and Pillory stood in the Place du Tertre. ‘Tertre’ means little hillock. At number 6 is the restaurant La Mere Catherine, it is said to be the first ‘Bistrot’ which is the Russian word for ‘Quick’ used by the invading Russians in 1814 to get food quickly.Today, the former village square has become one of the major tourist attractions in Paris where artists and restauranteurs compete for your custom. The artists are licenced and have a certificate declaring they earn their living from art. Sketchboard artists ply their trade and offer to do portraits. They are there to make a living . Pricing is subjective. Some can get a little too enthusiastic and or persuasive in their price negotiations. In the end people pay what they think the art is worth.
From the Place du Tertre go back towards the Church of St Pierre and then turn right down the rue St Eleuthere and first left into the rue Azais which curves round to bring you to the square in front of the Sacré Coeur. In 1873 the National Assembly voted to build a Basilica dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus ,hence Sacré Coeur, and to expiate the memory of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. There was a large Roman Catholic revival following the shock defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.Sacré Coeur was designed by Paul Abadie who had restored the Church of St Front at Périgueux in the Dordogne and was inspired to build in similar Romano-Byzantine style. Sacré Coeur is not yet one hundred years old and was consecrated in 1919. The two Equestrian Statues on the south façade represent St Louis holding the Crown of Thorns and Joan of Arc, patron saint of France. Behind the Church in a separate Campanile hangs the Savoyarde – a monstruous bell weighing 19 tons and donated by the 4 dioceses of Savoy.
From the terrace at the front of Sacré Coeur is a spectacular view of Paris laid out before you. A word of warning : in recent years the steps of Sacré Coeur have become a favourite target for pickpockets. Watch out for children holding out pieces of cardboard with something written on them or asking if you ‘speak english’.
The funicular railway with a glass roof , underneath and to the right of the Sacré Coeur terrace , will take you down the hill for the price of a metro ticket. Alternatively walk down the steps to the right of the funicular. At the foot of the hill turn right and take rue Tardieu and then Yvonne Le Tac to get to Metro Abbesses or turn left and then right into rue Steinkerque for Metro Anvers and the Bus stop for the 30 or 54 Buses.