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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Paris, at Montmartre


As a foreigner you can only guess what Montmartre means, it is easy to guess that “Mont” means “Mount” as the place is a large hill in Paris. But “martre” may sound a little like “mother”, so you think maybe it means Mary , the mother of Jesus. This association might arised after you visited the Notre-Dame, which means “Our Lady”.  So Montmatre maybe means the Mount of Mother, you think.

An Indonesian might think “martre” means “matre” which means materialistic. But people would not name a place like this a “Materialistic Mount”, so it is not possible to mean like that. Montmartre was once the place where artists, writers and bohemians who lived, worked and gathered in cafes and bars, while they were poor. Its low rents lured struggling artists whose canvases now sell for millions, such as Renoir, Degas, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Utrillo.  So if we consider this, Montmartre should sound more like an “Artistic Mount” rather than “Materialistic Mount”, don’t you think so?

Actually rather than making some hazard guesses it is easier to open a dictionary , Montmartre is the French word for the “Mount of Martyrs”, as the name is related to the 3rd century bishop of Paris. Bishop Denis was apprehended by the Romans and sentenced to death for teaching Christianity. There are various versions of the bishop’s martyrdom. One legend states that he was beheaded on the hill, after which the body picked up the head and carried it to the Parisian Saint Denis suburb. The bust of the decapitated bishop is located atop the hill of Montmartre.

Nowadays, a popular landmark in Montmartre, the Sacré-Cœur Basilica is located at the summit of the hill, the highest point in the city. Sacré-Cœur means Sacred Heart as it is  dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was an increasingly popular vision of a loving and sympathetic Christ. The basilica was designed by Paul Abadie. Construction began in 1875 and was consecrated in 1919.

Montmartre was once  towered with 30 windmills, used to press grapes and mill  grain. Nowadays one of these windmills still stand, the famous  "Red Windmill" — the Moulin Rouge cabaret theatre.  When it opened in 1889, the lively nightclub seemed to sum up the pleasure-seeking belle époque, a period of high artistic or cultural development.

Unmissable as you wander Montmartre for the spinning red windmill on its roof, the Moulin Rouge is an unforgettable mix of colour, movement and sound. The cabaret show performed by young girls dancing the sexy Can Can, was a magnet for all Parisians. The show featuring beautiful topless dancers, has become world famous.

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