The Montmartre district is a part of Paris with a character of its own. It’s mostly famous for the Sacre Coeur Basilica atop the most famous Parisian hill, and the Moulin Rouge at its base. Between these attractions, the Montmartre is crisscrossed with interesting monuments, charming alleys and places where numerous renowned works of arts originated. Read on to find out more.
Moulin Rouge: The world’s most famous cabaret
The Moulin Rouge is a setting of the extravagant cabaret show that is always sold out months in advance. Current performances are subtle versions of those that inaugurated such an entertaining concept over 100 years ago. Back then, Montmartre used to be a Parisian suburb with a shady reputation. The neighbourhood used to be overwhelmed with crimes, which even the official authorities were reluctant to enter.
The present performance includes attractive girls from all over the world, wild dancing, and tons of feathers and sequins. In times past, the “dance bar” was a place frequented by various patrons, who enjoyed the courtesans’ dance before getting to the point. As times change, the performances evolved too. Prostitution was banished, but a touch of naughtiness in dancing performances still remains.
The Moulin Rouge was immortalized by Henry de Toulouse-Lautrec, the famous artist who lived in Montmartre. Being a cripple and physically inferior, he turned to the Moulin Rouge in search for entertainment. His worldwide famous paintings, which you certainly know of, were created for advertisement purposes. They represent Jane Avril, La Goulue – the Queen of Montmartre, and other famous dancers of the early stages of the Moulin Rouge.
Place du Tertre: The artist’s centre
Due to high crime rate and uncertainty, Montmartre used to be a very cheap place, the only one where people without money could afford to live. Low rents attracted the artists, one such social class of that time. At Montmartre, numerous artists (who later became famous) lived and created their masterpieces. Some famous names are Picasso, Van Gogh, Dali, etc.
Place du Tertre, the heart of the former Montmartre Village, used to be a gathering point for the artists, and, in a way, it still is. Although it is overwhelmed by restaurants, bars and tourists in current times, it is here that Montmartre’s artistic soul surface. At this square, which is encircled by houses built in the 18th century, a personal painter can be hired to make a portrait of you on the spot.
Monument to Saint Denis
Now we come to the origins of the district’s name.
Montmartre is the French word for the “Mount of Martyrs”, and the name is mostly related to the 3rd century bishop of Paris. Bishop Denis was apprehended by the Romans and sentenced to death. There are various versions of the bishop’s martyrdom.
One legend states that he was beheaded on the hill, after which the body picked up the head and carried it to the Parisian Saint Denis suburb. The monumental Saint Denis Basilica today stands there. The bust of the decapitated bishop is located atop the hill of Montmartre.
An alternative version states that the head rolled toward the basilica’s location, which became the worshipping place for the Christians.
Supposedly, the bishop, who happened to be the patron saint of France, asked the guards to carry out the sentence at the very spot. The Romans, being reluctant to proceed to the distant place of executions, consented gladly.
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Monument to Dalida
Beautiful and famous 20th century actress and singer, whose career was compared with Marylin Monroe’s, was another resident of Montmartre. Despite Iolanda Cristina Gigliotti’s great success in show business, she was never happy in love, which drove her prematurely to her death. Her bust is located in the vicinity of Saint Denis’s, and it is believed that whoever touches her breasts (take a close look at them) will be happy in love forever.
Sacre Coeur Basilica: The landscape dominating the Parisian skyline
As you advance to the top of the Montmartre hill, an imposing basilica emerges in front of you. The Sacre Coeur (Holy Heart) Basilica is devoted to Jesus Christ. It features spectacular interior, embellished with reliefs, mosaics, paintings, and other works of art. In front of it, the equestrian statues of Jean d’Arc and Louis the Blessed welcome the visitors.
The basilica was erected as an act of reconciliation between the state and the inhabitants of Montmartre. The Montmartre residents suffered severe losses in the Franco-Prussian War, the one they were forced into, and the following Paris Commune, which was initiated just at Montmartre.
As you turn around in front of the Sacre Coeur, you can see the entire Paris laid before you. The exact spot is the perfect choice for the sunset experience. On the other hand, if you wish to marvel the basilica’s greatness and grandeur away from the bustling areas, you should get to the rear of it, and take position in a small and quiet park.
Additional reasons to visit Montmartre
These are just a few good reasons for visiting Montmartre. If you wish to see more of it, make sure to enter its narrow streets abounding with lush vegetation and engaging architecture. However, if the nightlife is what you look for, schedule a visit to authentic Au Lapin Agile.
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