Paris’ Sacré-Coeur to be (finally) classified as a historical monument

It's one of the most recognisable buildings in Paris and the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur receives millions of tourists every year. It has not, however, been recognised by the city as a historic monument - until now.

Paris' Sacré-Coeur to be (finally) classified as a historical monument
The Sacre-Coeur Basilica, one of the most visited monuments in Paris, is set to be classified as a "historic monument" (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)

Paris officials voted on Tuesday to give the hilltop basilica of Sacré-Coeur official “historic monument” status – defined as “a building or space which has been classified or registered in order to protect it, because of its historical or artistic interest.”

It might come as a surprise to many that the popular tourist attraction was not already protected as a historic monument – but the process has proved controversial, and that is because of the building’s history.

Unlike the ancient monuments of Notre-Dame (opened in 1345) or Saint-Chapelle (opened in 1248) Sacré-Coeur is relatively modern with construction only beginning in 1873. 

Construction began just two years after the fall of the Paris Commune – which lasted from March to May 1871 – and on an important site for the Commune, which situated cannons on the hilltop in Montmarte to aid them in taking Paris. 

And for many on the left it remains a symbol of the conflict between the Communards and the authorities. 

“The building, from the start, was emblematic of opinions of fringe, ultra-Catholics” who wanted “to quell a neighbourhood that had been considered insurrectionist in the northeast of Paris,” explained Eric Fournier, a lecturer at the University of Paris-I Panthéon-Sorbonne to Le Parisien.

Since then, it has continued to be associated with the repressive “moral order” of that time, and has remained a source of controversy in Paris – even though the green light has now been given, Communists on Paris city council voted against it for this reason. 

The year 2021 marked exactly 150 years after the Paris Commune, and the thought of classifying Sacré-Coeur as a monument at that time was rejected by Communists on the City Council, who said it would be a “deep attack against the action of the Communards,” according to Le Parisien. 

They maintained this stance this week, but the vote was eventually passed. 

However, for city councillor Karen Taïeb, the classification of the monument goes beyond historical facts. “It is not a question of forgetting the Paris Commune,” she said. “It is a question of recognising the heritage character of the building.”

Three are others who simply think that the building is ugly – 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.”

More recently some “anti-Sacré-Cœur” militants have asked for it to be demolished, calling it a “wart” while its nickname is the “Alabaster wedding cake”.

Although we should point out that both the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Pyramid have also been the focus of determined campaigns of outrage from Parisians lambasting them as eyesores. 

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Paris public transport ticket prices set to rise in 2023

Public transport users in the Paris region may be facing higher prices for tickets and travel passes in the new year, as the region's transport network attempts to meet €950 million in additional costs for 2023.

Paris public transport ticket prices set to rise in 2023

Grappling with rising costs, local authorities for the Paris region are considering raising the price of tickets and the monthly Navigo pass for the capital’s public transport system.

These new fares would come into effect on January 1st, 2023 – although local authorities still have to approve the price rises, which will be put to the vote on December 7th, and the government may yet step in to shield commuters from the sharpest increases. 

According to information leaked to French media, the cost of a single ticket – currently set at €1.90 – could go up by 21 percent – reaching €2.30 in the new year. Paris runs an integrated public transport system which means that tickets can be used on the Metro, tram, bus or RER train services. 

Fans of the 10-ticket carnet could see prices go up to €20.30, a rise from €16.90 for paper ticket purchasers and from €14.90 for mobile phone app and Navigo easy users.

As for the Navigo pass – the monthly rail card – which will be the focus of daily transport users in the Ile-de-France, the region’s President Valérie Pécresse warned that it could jump from the current €75.20 per month to €90. 

Other travel passes are also predicted to see a rise – the weekly Navigo semaine from €22.80 to €31, and the Navigo annual from €827.20 to €990.

READ MORE: Food, fuel and transport: Which prices will rise in France in 2023?

The transport system is considering price rises because it faces €950 million in additional costs for 2023, as a result of energy rates rising and the fact that the transport system will begin owing payments to the French government on their “Covid loans” in the year 2023. 

While the increase in single ride fares to €2.30 could bring in an additional €500 million, the region’s transport operators would still be short by €450 million.

Possible outcomes

In order to avoid sharp increases to fares for passengers, there are three possible solutions that have been put forward by President of the Region, Valérie Pecresse. 

The first option would be a sort of fare shield. This would keep the price of a Navigo pass at €75.20 by relying on the State for various aids, such as transforming the region’s “Covid loans” of €2 billion into a subsidy, spreading out repayments between 2023 and 2036, and lowering the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 10 percent to 5.5 percent, which would bring in €150 million per year. So far these proposals have not been met with support.

The second possible solution would be a uniform increase of 7.5 percent from all contributing parties to the transport system, Île de France Mobilités (IDFM).

Currently, the IDFM is financed in 12 percent by the region, 38 percent by passengers, and 50 percent by contributions from private companies. If a 7.5 percent increase was applied across the board, the impact on passengers would be an increase in the Navigo pass to €80.80 euros per month.

And the third possibility, one that has been championed by Pécresse, would be to increase the contribution of companies in Paris and the inner suburbs to the ‘Mobility’ fund. However, this would have to be done by an amendment to the French government’s Finance Bill, and as of late November, parliament stood opposed to tax increases on these companies.

Without any of these solutions taking place, Pécresse has warned that users would have to withstand a 20 percent price increase, meaning a monthly Navigo pass costing between €90 to €100.

Pécresse has called this possibility “socially unbearable” and “anti-environmental.”

The Minister of Transport, Clément Beaune, told RMC on Monday that the ministry will to “everything to avoid an increase to the Navigo pass,” adding that discussions were still underway.

Meanwhile, the government spokesman, Olivier Véran, told France Inter that the government plans to “identify ways and means to avoid an increase as significant as that which has been cited” in discussions with the region.