I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions . . .

—Joel 2:28

From the outside, Montmartre’s Sacré-Cœur Basilica presents something of an aesthetic problem. It is a striking edifice, needless to say, soaring up as it does at the very summit of Paris, a bright white riot of demi-ovate domes and cupolas, elongated arches, and intrepidly clashing decorative motifs. But it is also very much a product of its time, with a little too much fin de siècle preciosity about it. If one views its alleged fusion of Romanesque and Byzantine styles at a sardonic slant, it can look suspiciously like a meretricious pastiche, full of late Romantic medievalist and orientalist clichés. Contemplated at a distance, under the Parisian sky, it all sometimes seems not so much an organic expression of the...

 

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