Basilique du Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre 75018 Paris
Last spring, I spent the night at the Basilica of Sacré Coeur, doing what I consider to be one of the best kept secrets of the city. Did you know this was possible? You won’t find it in any hotel guide book or on Air-Bnb, but tucked behind the massive white dome at the top of Montmartre is the Ephrem Hotel. That’s right, a spiritual one night journey in the iconic Sacre Coeur Basilica!
There are two room options. Team Socially Righteous or Chaste&Chatty can reserve a bed in a semi private single sex dorm for 6€. Those who prefer feeling more like an isolated silent monk can opt for a private suite for 20€. You can even request a room to share with a roommate or family if you don’t intend on breaking the 5th commandment.
The catch? You need to commit to being present in the Basilica for just one hour throughout the night, from 10:30pm when they kick out the general public until the reopening at 6am. There is a Compline at 9:30 (which was like a light show, the Sister who checked me in said I must see it. I had no regrets, it was stunning) followed by a mass, but this is not obligatory to attend. Why is this possible?
Because of a 135 year-old living prayer chain that since 1885, has NEVER been broken. Your participation in the Night Adoration ensures that this relay of prayer is continuous. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, pandemic or not- there is SOMEONE in this basilica keeping the Adoration chain going.
The idea is to pray in silence, (maybe attract an apparition or two if you are feeling extra divine) but there are no rules or restrictions to interpret HOW you spend this hour. No Rosary Wielding Warrior of God will be using her holy laser beans to burn out your eyeballs if you aren’t deemed pious enough. In fact, I found the staff to be really friendly. One Sister had such an warm smile that I felt comfortable enough to ask her if she referred to God as “tu” or the more formal “vous” when she prayed. She laughed out loud at my timid question and told me she preferred the more friendly form of “you”.
Whether you pray to a Catholic God or another, if you choose to meditate or reflect on yourself- that hour is what you make it to be. As long as you are silent and don’t pull a Judas by throwing Jesus under the bus or anything, you will be welcomed. Anyone can do this. Residents of Paris or visitors. Families or alone. I admit I was a bit nervous about this experience. I had visions of merciless nuns interrogating me on the bible or forcing me to wear a hair shirt and do penance for my sinful ways. But in fact, no one really seemed to care and I was really surprised at the freedom I had in the 2nd most visited monument in Paris.
I was one of the last to arrive before they closed the doors at 9:30 so I chose 6am-7pm as my time slot and I opted for a private room which was simple, yet surprisingly clean and cozy. Having stayed in some sketchy hostel dorms in my day (here’s looking at you Naples) I was really impressed with how spotless everything was. Cleanliness is next to Godliness amiright? I’m not an especially religious person, but that hour I spent in the darkness before dawn, accompanied only by the glow of candles and the howling wind beyond the impenetrable stone walls, was one I won’t forget. Nothing brings you closer to whatever form of spirituality you believe in then the sound of silence in such an immensely comprehensive space.
This isn’t for everyone, but if you are like me and always looking for new experiences and might be interested in spending a special and very peaceful night in this world famous Basilica, I urge you to check out the Sacré Coeur website below where you will find information on participating in the Night Adoration. Its very easy to register and you can reserve the type of room you want to sleep in 48 hours in advance.
*I apologize for lack of pictures. I admit to using the Lord’s name in Vain more than I should, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful in such a peaceful environment.
**A simple breakfast is also available too for 4€ but not an option at the moment with co-vid unfortunately.