Montmartre seen from the Centre Georges Pompidou
Montmartre is located in Paris
Location of Montmartre in Paris

Montmartre is a hill (the butte Montmartre) which is 130 metres high, giving its name to the surrounding district, in the north of Paris in the 18th arrondissement, a part of the Right Bank. Montmartre is primarily known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré Cœur on its summit and as a nightclub district. The other, older, church on the hill is Saint Pierre de Montmartre, which claims to be the location at which the Jesuit order of priests was founded. Many artists had studios or worked around the community of Montmartre such as Salvador Dalí, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. Montmartre is also the setting for several hit films. This site is served by metro line 2 stations of Anvers, Pigalle and Blanche and the line 12 stations of Pigalle, Abbesses, Lamarck - Caulaincourt and Jules Joffrin.


Name origin

The toponym Mons Martis ("Mount of Mars" in Latin) survived into Merovingian times, Christianised as Montmartre,[1] signifying 'mountain of the martyr'; it owes this name to the martyrdom of Saint Denis,[2] who was decapitated on the hill around 250 AD. Saint Denis was the Bishop of Paris and is the patron saint of France.



The hill's religious symbolism is thought to extend into prehistorical times, as it has been suggested as a likely druidic holy place because it is the highest point in the area. No archeological evidence supports the claim.[3]

16th century

During 1590 Siege of Paris, part of the French Wars of Religion, the hills at Montmartre were used by Henry IV to place his artillery where they could fire down into the city. The siege eventually failed when a large relief force approached and forced Henry to withdraw.

18th century

In the 18th and 19th centuries, there were a number of gypsum mines in Montmartre. See Mines of Paris. A fossil tooth found in one of these was identified by Georges Cuvier as an extinct equine, which he dubbed Palaeotherium, the "ancient animal". His sketch of the entire animal in 1825 was matched by a skeleton discovered later.[4]

19th century

Boulevard Montmartre. (1897), a painting by Camille Pissarro of the boulevard that led to Montmartre as seen from his hotel room.

Russians occupied Montmartre when invading Paris in the course of the Battle of Paris (1814). They used the altitude of the hill for artillery bombardment of the city.[5]

There is a memorial sign on one of the restaurants on Montmartre that says: On 30 March 1814 - here the Cossacks first launched their famous "Bistro" and thus on this summit occurred the worthy Ancestor of our Bistros.[6]

LE 30 MARS 1814

Basilica of the Sacré Cœur, Montmartre, Paris.

Since Montmartre was outside the city limits, free of Paris taxes and no doubt also due to the fact that the local nuns made wine, the hill quickly became a popular drinking area. The area developed into a centre of free-wheeling and decadent entertainment at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. In the popular cabaret the Moulin Rouge, and at Le Chat Noir, artists, singers and performers regularly appeared including Yvette Guilbert, Marcelle Lender, Aristide Bruant, La Goulue, Georges Guibourg, Mistinguett, Fréhel, Jane Avril, Damia and others.

When Napoleon III and his city planner Baron Haussmann planned to make Paris the most beautiful city in Europe, a first step was to grant large sweeps of land near the centre of the city to Haussmann's friends and financial supporters. This drove the original inhabitants to the edges of the city — to the districts of Clichy, La Villette, and the hill with a view of the city, Montmartre.

The Basilica of the Sacré Cœur was built on Montmartre from 1876 to 1912 by public subscription as a gesture of expiation of the "crimes of the communards", after the Paris Commune events, and to honour the French victims of the 1871 Franco-Prussian War. Its white dome is a highly visible landmark in the city, and just below it artists still set up their easels each day amidst the tables and colourful umbrellas of Place du Tertre.

At the beginning of his political career, the future French statesman Georges Clemenceau (1841–1929) was mayor of Montmartre.[citation needed]

Artists gather

Théophile Steinlen's famous advertisement for the tour of Le Chat Noir cabaret

In the mid-19th century, artists such as Johan Jongkind and Camille Pissarro came to inhabit Montmartre. But only at the end of the century did the district become the principal artistic center of Paris. A restaurant opened near the old windmill near the top, the Moulin de la Galette.

Artists' associations such as Les Nabis and the Incoherents were formed and individuals including Vincent van Gogh, Pierre Brissaud, Alfred Jarry, Gen Paul, Jacques Villon, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Henri Matisse, André Derain, Suzanne Valadon, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Maurice Utrillo, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Théophile Steinlen, and African-American expatriates such as Langston Hughes worked in Montmartre and drew some of their inspiration from the area.

Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, and other impoverished artists lived and worked in a commune, a building called Le Bateau-Lavoir, during the years 1904–1909. Composers, including Satie (who was a pianist at Le Chat Noir), also lived in the area.

The last of the bohemian Montmartre artists was Gen Paul (1895–1975), born in Montmartre and a friend of Utrillo. Paul's calligraphic expressionist lithographs, sometimes memorializing picturesque Montmartre itself, owe a lot to Raoul Dufy.

Contemporary Montmartre

The view from the butte looking towards Centre Georges Pompidou
The Montmartre "petit train" doing its rounds near the Moulin Rouge cabaret.
The stairs of the Rue Foyatier

In La Bohème (1965), perhaps the best-known song by popular singer-songwriter Charles Aznavour, a painter recalls his youthful years in a Montmartre that has ceased to exist: Je ne reconnais plus/Ni les murs, ni les rues/Qui ont vu ma jeunesse/En haut d'un escalier/Je cherche l'atelier/Dont plus rien ne subsiste/Dans son nouveau décor/Montmartre semble triste/Et les lilas sont morts ('I no longer recognize/Neither the walls nor the streets/That had seen my youth/At the top of a staircase/I look for a studio-apartment/Of which nothing survives/In its new décor/Montmartre seems sad/And the lilacs died'). The song is a farewell to what, according to Aznavour, were the last days of Montmartre as a site of bohemian activity.

Vineyard in the Rue Saint-Vincent; the day of the Feast of gardens, 15 days after harvest.

There is a small vineyard in the Rue Saint-Vincent, which continues the tradition of wine production in the Île de France; it yields about 500 litres per year.[7]

The Musée de Montmartre is in the house where the painter Maurice Utrillo lived and worked in a second-floor studio. The mansion in the garden at the back is the oldest hotel on Montmartre, and one of its first owners was Claude Roze, also known as Roze de Rosimond, who bought it in 1680. Roze was the actor who replaced Molière, and, like his predecessor, died on stage. The house was Pierre-Auguste Renoir's first Montmartre address and many other names moved through the premises.

Just off the top of the butte, Espace Dalí showcases surrealist artist Salvador Dalí's work. Nearby, day and night, tourists visit such sights as the artists in Place du Tertre and the cabaret du Lapin Agile. Many renowned artists are buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre and the Cimetière Saint-Vincent.

Montmartre was the setting of the film La Môme, (La vie en rose) which elaborates on the life of famous French singer Edith Piaf and her times in the slums of Paris, and of Amélie, the story of a young Parisian woman determined to help the lives of others and find her true love, is set in an exaggeratedly quaint version of contemporary Montmartre. 2001's Moulin Rouge! was also set in Montmartre, the story of a young man who believes in truth, beauty, freedom, and love, and who falls in love with a famous courtesan. 1954's Moulin Rouge, solely about the life and lost loves of painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, also took place in the district.

Montmartre is an officially designated historic district with limited development allowed in order to maintain its historic character.

A funicular railway, the Funiculaire de Montmartre, operated by RATP, ascends the hill from the south while the Montmartre Bus circles the hill.

Downhill to the southwest is the red-light district of Pigalle. That area is, today, largely known for a wide variety of stores specializing in instruments for rock music. There are also several concert halls, also used for rock music. The actual Moulin Rouge theatre is also in Pigalle, next to Blanche métro station.[8]

See also

The profile of time by Salvador Dalí, exhibited in the Espace Dali
  • the Fête des vendanges of Montmartre, which assembles more than 350,000 people during the first October weekend, every year,
  • the Place du Tertre, where various painters are painting tourists for pleasure (and also money),
  • the Espace Dali, museum dedicated to several masterpieces of the surrealist artist,
  • the Dalida house in rue d'Orchampt,
  • the place Dalida,
  • the place Pigalle and the Moulin Rouge in the south,
  • the marché Saint-Pierre, area of the cloth sellers in the south-east,
  • the working class districts taking in a lot of immigrated people: Barbès (Maghreb) in the south east, Château Rouge (black Africa) in the east,
  • the boulevard de Rochechouart (metro stations : Anvers and Pigalle) for its concert halls (La Cigale, L'Elysée-Montmartre, Le Trianon, La Boule Noire) inspired from the 19th century cabarets,
  • the cimetière de Montmartre,
  • the famous and often sung rue Lepic with its Les Deux Moulins café, made famous around the world by Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain movie,
  • the Erik Satie's house,
  • the Musée de Montmartre,
  • rue Saint-Vincent, the vigne de Montmartre, the most famous of the parisian vineyards (there are some others, in particular in the parc Georges Brassens in the 15ème arrondissement of Paris). Its wine is quite expensive ; the earnings are used to help social institutions. It is overhung by beautiful buildings from the 20s,
  • Le Chat noir and the Lapin Agile cabarets whose clientele was mainly French artists in the beginning of the 20th century,
  • the Moulin de la Galette,
  • the funiculaire de Montmartre, a people lift, one can use instead of the stairs to ascend the butte Montmartre
  • the place Émile-Goudeau, where the Bateau-Lavoir welcomes great painters,
  • Place Jean-Marais



  1. ^ Bailey K. Young, "Archaeology in an Urban Setting: Excavations at Saint-Pierre-de-Montmartre, Paris, 1975-1977" Journal of Field Archaeology 5.3 (Autumn 1978:319-329) p 321: "The tradition that a Temple of Mars stood on the south bluff and a Temple of Mercury farther west was known to Eatly Modern érudits.
  2. ^ The "place called the mont of Mars, now by a happy mutation known as the Mont of Martyrs", Miracles of Saint Denis (831) quoted in Young 1978:321 note5.
  3. ^ Young (1978:312) reports of Saint Pierre de Montmartre, the oldest institution on the butte "Though we know that impressive vestiges of antique walls stood into modern times, archaeological testimony is meagre."
  4. ^ Knell, Simon J.; Suzanne Macleod; Sheila E. R. Watson, Museum revolutions: how museums and change and are changed Routledge, 2007, ISBN 0-415-44467-5, 9780415444675.
  5. ^ Leonid Parfyonov (2004). Russian Empire: Vol. 2, Disk 4, Part 2 (Alexander I) (DVD). Russia: NTV. Event occurs at 00:27:40. 
  6. ^ Leonid Parfyonov (2004). Russian Empire: Vol. 2, Disk 4, Part 2 (Alexander I) (DVD). Russia: NTV. Event occurs at 00:28:53. 
  7. ^ Information on the Clos Montmartre by Syndicat d'Initiative, retrieved 2008-09-26
  8. ^


Vie quotidienne a Montmartre au temps de Picasso, 1900-1910 (Daily Life on Montmartre in the Times of Picasso) was written by Jean-Paul Crespelle, an author-historian who specialized in the artistic life of Montmartre and Montparnasse.

External links

Coordinates: 48°53′13″N 02°20′28″E / 48.88694°N 2.34111°E / 48.88694; 2.34111

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