|Comment on this report, or find other reports.
|Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you'd like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.
|Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.
du Sacré-Cur de Montmartre, Paris, France
Ultracrepidarian and Ecumaniac.
du Sacré-Cur de Montmartre, Paris, France.
Roman Catholic, Diocese
An impressive Romano-Byzantine basilica, reminiscent of Santa
Sophia or St Mark's Venice. The cornerstone was laid in 1875
and the basilica was completed by 1914,
although its consecration was delayed until after World War
I. It is constructed of travertine stone rich in calcite,
thus ensuring that the basilica remains white even with weathering
and pollution. The portico features three arches flanked by
equestrian statues of Joan of Arc and King Louis IX. A mosaic
in the apse, entitled Christ in Majesty, is among the largest
in the world. It depicts Christ, with arms outstretched, his
Sacred Heart emblazoned in gold, attended by angels, saints,
bishops wearing mitres and a pope wearing his tiara and holding
the world up to him, literally soaring in the dome above the
The basilica shares the summit of Montmartre with two communities
of nuns: a group of Benedictines and a group of Carmelites.
The Benedictine nuns appear to be very active in the life
of the basilica and several were present at this service.
Another special feature of the basilica community is its history
of eucharistic adoration. The Blessed Sacrament has been exposed
for perpetual adoration in a monstrance over the high altar
continually since 1885 (before construction was even finished).
There is a continuous vigil of people praying before the exposed
The basilica is located on top of Montmartre, the highest
hill in Paris. On a clear day its white triple-domed structure
is visible against the sky from most vantage points in Paris.
Legend has it that St Denys, the first bishop of Paris, was
martyred there by decapitation. The legend goes on to say
that Denys picked up his severed head and walked happily for
several miles with it, preaching a sermon as he went.
Unfortunately, we were not able to discover the name of the
priest who celebrated and preached, or that of the enthusiastic
nun who led the singing.
The date & time:
Le Dimanche de la Divine Miséricorde (Divine
Mercy Sunday), 11 April 2010, 6.30pm.
What was the name of
How full was the building?
The seating area for people taking part in the service was
decently full. We weren't squeezed in like sardines, but there
weren't very many spare seats. In addition, a constant stream
of tourists moved around the periphery of the basilica.
Did anyone welcome you
A kindly looking nun in full habit gave us a service sheet.
Other than that, we were pretty much left to our own devices.
Was your pew comfortable?
Pretty standard as pews go. It wasn't conducive to sleep,
but I didn't feel sore when I got up.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
There was the murmur of tourists in the background, occasionally
hushed by the people near the door. On the whole, the atmosphere
in the main part of the church was quiet and expectant.
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
A Benedictine nun (again in full habit) who served as cantor
and worship leader throughout sang: "Jours de Résurrection!
Rayonnons de joie, rayonnons de joie!" (This is
Eastertide! Be radiant with joy, be radiant with joy!)
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
Only the service sheet, which had the text of the sung parts
of the service and the readings. Other congregational responses
(e.g. responses during the eucharistic prayer) were recited
What musical instruments
Organ (very well played and never intrusive), a magnificent
Cavaillé-Coll instrument originally built for a private
home. The organ was unusual for its time in that it employed
61-note manuals and a 32-note pedalboard, which had not yet
Did anything distract
I expected to be irritated by the tourists around the basilica,
but they were just a background hum that was easy to ignore.
More distracting was the splendid mosaic on the interior of
the main dome. It kept drawing my eye away from the main action
of the service.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The worship style was what you would expect from a major Catholic
church or cathedral: more formal than intimate, but not overly
uptight. The nun leading the service had a lovely voice. In
an attempt to conduct us, she would wave her arms vigorously
when it was time for the congregation to sing. However, most
of the pew-fodder responded in true Catholic fashion by ignoring
her encouragements and murmuring inaudibly.
Exactly how long was
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
8 The priest spoke slowly and clearly, but with character
and animation when appropriate. All of this was very handy
to me, trying to understand the sermon with my underused schoolboy
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
It being Divine Mercy Sunday, he spoke on the theme of mercy.
Mercy is more than just a pardon from God. In order to live
a life truly touched by mercy, it is necessary to show mercy
toward others, drawing on the power that is revealed through
the love of Christ.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
Gazing up at the mosaic of Christ and his Sacred Heart while
singing the Gloria. It truly a sight to behold. I felt very
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The service sheet was all in French except for one sentence
that was tersely translated into English: "Only persons
baptised in the Catholic Church may come forward to receive
communion." Call me overly sensitive, but the impression
I got was that guarding the Sacrament against blundering anglophone
Protestants is a much more pressing concern than helping English-speaking
visitors to understand the service. They should either leave
the line about receiving communion untranslated, or translate
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
It wasn't really the sort of place where people come up and
talk to you. Apart from being pestered for money at the door
on the way out, we touristes anglais weren't paid
much attention to.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
Non-existent (unless there was a coded message in French explaining
where it was being served).
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
6 I personally prefer smaller parish communities over
basilica/cathedral worship; there is a better chance to get
to know people. That said, the preaching was very good and
it would certainly improve my French!
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. It was great to worship in an unfamiliar language but
a familiar structure and so feel united with Christians around
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The singing nun and her animated attempts to get the congregation
to join her.
|We rely on voluntary donations to stay online. If you're a regular visitor to Ship of Fools, please consider supporting us.
|The Mystery Pilgrim
| One of our most seasoned reporters makes the Camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Read here.
| Read reports from 70 London churches, visited by a small army of Mystery Worshippers on one single Sunday. Read here.