Who could fail to enjoy a place like this? Le Mur des je t’aime = I love you: the wall. Imagine a wall in a Parisian park. On the wall you see the words, I love you, written 1,000 times in 300 languages in many different scripts. On a sunny day like today, you come here to point to the words that say “I love you” in your language and have your picture taken. Lovers stroll here arm in arm. A young French woman sings love songs as she plays the accordion for spare change.
The wall is the brainchild of Frederick Baron. He wanted the “image of a wall on which the principle languages and dialects of the planet glittered like stars in the sky.” Address: Paris, Butte Montmartre, Place des Abbesses in the Square jean Rictus in case you’re in town.
The big draw on Montmartre is La basilique du Sacre-Coeur with its white turrets and domes. Folks sit on the front steps and gaze out over Paris or photograph themselves with their selfie sticks and giggle. Inside is the place of the Gold Leaf. Wow. The exquisite mosaics and statuary are elaborately decorated with glittering gold. “At the outbreak of the Franco -Prussian war in 1870, two Catholic businessmen made a private religious vow to build a church dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus should France be spared the impending Prussian onslaught.” It was and they did. One of the two men, Alexandre Legentil, had his heart buried in a stone urn in the underground crypt. Hmmm. Home is where the heart is? Work began in 1875 and finished in 1914, but the consecreation was not until 1919 after France survived World War I. Too many wars!
My favorite place in Montmartre is the church of St. Peter, a stone’s throw from Sacre Coeur. The church has a long, checkered history shrouded in legend and has been almost destroyed by fire and edict a number of times. Legend has it that St. Denis, missionary to the Gauls, was beheaded here with two of his companions, Rustic and Eleuthere. However, St. Denis picked up his head and walked to the site of his sepulture where the church now stands.
On this visit I noticed several new things. First, I found in the church the inscription that indicated Queen Adelaide, wife of King Louis VI, was buried here. In 1133, the church that was here was given to the King who decided to found an abbey under the protection of the crown. Later, Adelaide joined the convent here and specified in her will that she be buried in the choir of the church. Her burial marker is modest, indeed. The most dramatic part of the church is now the 27 windows of stained glass by Max Ingrand installed in 1952 and 1953. They represent Christ, the life of St. Peter and the saints of Montmartre. On a sunny day like today, the rainbow colors fall on the pillars and aisles in carpets of primary hues. Lovely.
- The museum of Montmartre depicts the history of a home with a life much looser in style than Sacre Coeur and the church of St. Peter. More later.