The Sacré-Coeur Basilica is one of Paris's major tourist draws. The majestic building is located on top of the Montmartre hill.
Montmartre is known for its many artists who have been omnipresent since 1880. The name Montmartre, an area around a hill in the 18th arrondissement, north of downtown Paris, is said to be derived from either Mount of Martyrs or from Mount of Mars. Until 1873, when the Sacré-Coeur was built on top of the hill, Montmartre was a small village, inhabited by a mostly farming community.
The project to build the Sacré-Coeur Basilica (Basilica of the Sacred Heart) was initiated by a group of influential people. Their reasons to build this monument was two-fold: they had pledged to build a church if Paris escaped unscathed from the war with the Prussians and they saw the defeat of the French at the hands of the Prussian army in 1870 as a moral condemnation of the sins of Paris. The project was authorized by the National Assembly in 1873, and a competition was organized. The goal was to build an imposing basilica true to Christian traditions.
The winner of the competition was Paul Abadie, who had already restored two cathedrals in France. He built an immense basilica in a Roman-Byzantyne style. Its large dome towers 83m (272ft) over the top of the Montmartre hill. The architectural style of the basilica stands in sharp contrast with other contemporary buildings in France, which were mostly built in a Romanesque style. The massive building has managed to keep its beaming white color even in the polluted air of a big city like Paris. This can be attributed to the Château-Landon stones which were used for the construction of the Sacré-Coeur. When it rains, the stones react to the water and secrete calcite, which acts like a bleacher.