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Montmartre: The Love Found Casts a Glorious Shadow Over Paris

Montmartre Paris, France

Montmartre Paris, France

When we think of Paris, we often think of lovers and artists along the banks of the Seine River. We tend to associate famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, and the Louvre with the City of Lights. Often, we look at Paris as the fashion capital of the world. But, how many of us associate Montmartre, the village within a city, with Paris? Recently, I had the pleasurable opportunity of discovering the charm of this village that sits high above Paris and found love in the air!

A Bit About Montmartre

Established in 1995 as its own entity, Montmartre has its roots as far back as the 2nd century. Centuries of rumored worship at this specific location lead us to the name "Montmartre" which translates to "Mount of the Martyrs". Sitting about 430 feet above Paris, it is known for its artistic history. Sacre Couer, the white domed basilica is located at the summit of Montmarte. Today, many Parisian nightclubs are located in and around Montmartre, including Moulin Rouge. And yet, despite all of those lovely things, some people like myself, seek out Montmartre looking for the love that casts a glorious shadow over Paris!

Artistic History

Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh are known to have lived and worked in Montmartre. It turns out that Montmartre provided these great artists with the perfect place to work; one with peace and quiet along with inexpensive rents. From the late 1800s to about 1915, many of these greats lived at the same address, which is now a museum. Renoir created the famous work "Bal du moulin de la Galette" which portrays an afternoon dance party and Picasso gave us "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon". Picasso's painting is part of a larger collection and portrays five naked prostitutes in a brothel presumably located in Barcelona.

"Bal du moulin de la Galette:,  Painted by Renoir in Montmartre Around 1876

"Bal du moulin de la Galette:,  Painted by Renoir in Montmartre Around 1876

Sacre Couer

Located at the second highest point in Paris, this spot was chosen for the basilica's location so that worshipers could be closer to God.

The construction of the basilica was financed by the "faithful" Parisians. When the Prussians defeated the French army in 1870, Alexandre Legentil, a staunch believer, wanted redemption for the city and organized the construction and financing. He felt that the basilica would relieve the sins committed since the French Revolution and would give the city a "fresh start".

Sacre Couer translates to "Sacred Heart". But whose sacred heart is the basilica named for? During the late 1800s, when the construction and dedication took place, religious structures were typically named for the Virgin Mary. However, breaking with that tradition, this basilica is dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus.

There are many interesting tidbits surrounding Sacre Couer, but one that I find particularly interesting is that the basilica is "self-cleaning"! The white stones used in construction came from the quarries in Souppes and contain a huge amount of calcite. This particular stone is resistant to water and pollutants. In fact, when it rains, the calcite is released and cleans the exterior surfaces. The bright white basilica stands out in the Parisian skyline as if beckoning visitors to the spot of worship.

My Time in Montmartre and How Did I Find Love?

My travel companion and I thought we had the day planned and had intended on participating in a scavenger hunt around Paris. This activity would have taken us to many landmarks and seemed like a fabulous way to see the beautiful city. However, it wasn't meant to be. When we arrived at the starting point, we weren't able to download the clues. As we stood in front of Moulin Rouge, I knew that Montmartre had been part of the failed scavenger hunt. Part of the description had been that it held the secret of great love! And, from the map, it appeared as if we were within "spitting distance".

An Impromptu Adventure

Yes, according to Google Maps, we were 2.2 km, a mere 17-minute walk. We failed to take into account the topography of this short walk. And, as previously mentioned, Montmartre sits 430 feet above Paris! The streets we walked were cobblestone and took us through a really cool part of town with small bakeries and markets. We received an inside look into the daily lives of the residents of that area.

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Arriving in Montmartre

Not happy about showing our age, huffing, and puffing, we finally arrived in the lovely village of Montmartre! But, WOW! What appeared to be a quaint village, truly was! It was difficult to comprehend that within a very short distance, was Paris, one of the largest cities in the world with a population of over 11,000,000. Montmartre had all the trappings of a movie; small aromatic bakeries, quaint restaurants, cobblestone streets, and charming shops are surrounding a lovely town square. (In fact, it has been the scene of 14 movies and the subject of a song in La Boheme.)

After the walk up, that seemed like we hiked a mountain, we decided before anything else, we needed food and drink. A cool and misty day called for wine and French Onion Soup. We had plenty of options and settled on a restaurant adjacent to the main square.

In Search of Love

After a delicious lunch, we went in search of love. Meandering through the main square, we found the street we were looking for. We could see small crowds of people and then we saw it! Right in front of us was Sacre Couer! Oh, my gosh, looking for love, we stumbled on the basilica. We immediately began doing what every other tourist was doing- we started snapping pictures from every angle possible. What a great day this had turned out to be except, I couldn't help but wonder where was the love I read about?

Deciding to regroup, we purchased a latte from a nearby vendor and sat on a bench to plan. How do we find the love that everyone had told us about? Glancing up, we realized we had completely overlooked the breathtaking views of the city below. As if the views were about to vanish, we hurried to the fencing for what was touted as the best views of Paris! And, yes, the views were spectacular; truly the best views Paris had to offer! But, still no love! Had we been looking for love in all the wrong places?

You know the expression "if it had been a snake, it would have bitten me"? Right at that very minute, I would have been bitten! There was the love I had been looking for! On the fence overlooking the City of Lights! The proof that everlasting love and hope exist would have bitten me, had it been a snake! Gazillions of love locks are attached to the fence overlooking the city always associated with love!

The Love in Montmartre Casts A Shadow Over Paris!

The Love in Montmartre Casts A Shadow Over Paris!

Why Are the Love Locks Such a Big Deal?

Love locks are a symbol of love and commitment; hope for the future. The centuries-old legend tells us that lovers should lock a padlock on a chain or gate in a public location and then throw away the key. This action symbolically locks their love forever. The love locks express hope and humanity which in turn, connect people around the world. And, aren't love, hope, and humanity the things in our crazy world that unite everyone? The ancient legend also tells us, that if both people are not present as the lock locks, their love will be forever jinxed.

So, the love we were looking for was right there, in front of our noses! And really, friends, isn't that the way love works? Sometimes, we get so caught up in the details of life that we fail to realize that what we are out there seeking, already exists in our hearts! If we would just pay attention to the small things in life, wouldn't we realize, that the big things are right in front of us? Our day in Montmartre reaffirmed that lasting love does exist and all is right with the world!

My Impressions

Another fabulous day in Paris! In search of what I already had, I experienced the village of Montmartre. On the journey to the village, I witnessed the lives of Parisians in their everyday splendor. But more than that, my thoughts and eyes opened that day. I learned that the journey I am on is paved with opportunity, experiences not yet had, and the realization of the blessings which already exist in my heart. The placement of the lovelocks meters away from Sacre Couer, in my opinion, is no accident. The basilica is associated with the sacred heart of Jesus. It was built to uplift the people after the French Revolution; to wash away their "sins of war"; to give them hope for the future. And lastly, as Christians, aren't we taught that His love is the purest love of all and that he gives us hope and redemption?

Until next time friends, remember "To Travel is to Live!"

© 2023 Dee Nicolou Serkin

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