PARIS — As the health crisis caused by the coronavirus epidemic immersed the whole country into a long period of lockdown March 17, Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Paris, which had to close its doors for the first time in its history, nonetheless remained an unflappable beacon of prayer in France.
Enthroned at the top of the emblematic butte Montmartre, the highest point of the city, the basilica is particularly prized by tourists and art lovers for the purity of its Roman-Byzantine architecture and its rounded shapes.
It is, after the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the second-most-visited monument of the City of Light.
But this high place of world tourism, as a “Sanctuary of Eucharistic Adoration and Divine Mercy,” is also one of the most important religious sites of France.
Day and night since Aug. 1, 1885, the Body of Christ in the Holy Sacrament has been exposed and adored inside the basilica (except for Good Friday), whatever the external conditions, even the most extreme. This is remarkable, as the history of France hasn’t exactly been calm since that time, including for the Catholic Church, which is also facing an unprecedented wave of secularization at every level of society.
“The adoration hasn’t stopped even for a minute, including during the two world wars,” Sister Cécile-Marie, member of the Benedictine Sisters of the Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre and responsible for the nights of adoration at the basilica, told the Register. “Even during the 1944 bombing, when some fragments fell right next to the basilica, the adorers never left.”