French authorities this week launched the process to turn the famed building into a listed moment, exactly 100 years since it was consecrated in 1919.
#Patrimoine Un siècle après la consécration de la basilique, la Direction régionale des affaires culturelles d'IDF (@Prefet75_IDF) engage le processus pour classer le Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre au titre des monuments historiques!
— L'État en Île-de-France (@Prefet75_IDF) October 14, 2020
The basilica draws some 10 million visitors a year and has become the most-visited edifice since the blaze left the Notre Dame tarnished in 2019, regional authorities said.
Yet, it lacks the same official status as the cathedral.
“The Sacré-Coeur is one of the symbols of Paris. But, as astonishing as it seems, it is not protected as a historic monument,” said Laurent Roturier, head of the Paris region's cultural affairs, in a press statement published on their website.
“[We] wanted to give this building the recognition it deserves with regard to its architectural quality.”
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Why has it taken so long?
Notre Dame became a listed historic monument in 1862, and the Louvre museum in 1889.
The monument is associated with the ‘’bloody week’’ of May 1871, when a radical left-wing group known as the Paris Commune rebelled against the government.
In a bloody battle the anti-monarchist rebels executed many of their hostages, including two French generals, on the Montmartre hill, precisely where the Sacré-Cœur stands today.
“These quarrels are behind us but have delayed the protection process,” Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot told French media this week.
The other reason, she said, was that for a long time it was seen as an eyesore, reflecting widespread “disdain for 19th century buildings”.
The culture minister was referring to that some find the Sacré-Cœur, which has been nicknamed the “Alabaster Wedding Cake”, ugly.
Back in the day when it was built, famous French author Emile Zola expressed his disdain for the basilica in his book Paris, calling it a “slap in the face of reason” that was “built to glorify the absurd.”
A bit more close to our time, some “anti-Sacré-Cœur” militants have asked for it to be demolished, comparing it to a “wart”.
But, considered its high visiting numbers, it seems that most tourists and French enjoy the views of the building. And, with its soon-to-come official recognition, they will be able to do so for a long time to come.