The ‘Mondrian’ windows of Sacre Coeur

The Basilica of Sacre Coeur in Paris is at the highest point in the city, the top of the Montmartre hill – the Mount of Martyrs.  It’s a magnificent location and the church is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, but it is not an old building.  Not begun until after the Franco-Prussian war in the late 19th century and not completed until the outbreak of World War I in 1914, it is an unusual multi-domed Romanesque-Byzantine revival design.

Sacre Coeur Basilica is at the top of the hill in Montmartre, the highest point in the city.

Sacre Coeur Basilica is at the top of the hill in Montmartre, the highest point in the city.

Sacre Coeur was built by private subscription as a penance for a century of moral decline after the French Revolution of 1789

Sacre Coeur was built by private subscription, supposedly as a penance for a century of moral decline after the French Revolution of 1789

Part of the multi-domed interior of Sacre Coeur

Part of the multi-domed interior of Sacre Coeur

The official website of the basilica states that the stained-glass windows, which were originally installed in 1922, were destroyed by WWII bombing during the liberation of Paris, in August 1944, but “were restaured (sic) in 1946”.  I don’t think this can be correct.  I think some of the windows, at least, were not ‘restored’ to what they were before, but were replaced by new designs.

Here are two of the windows that I think could not have been designed before 1922.  The style of these windows is much more consistent with post-war design style, clearly influenced by the abstract geometric paintings of Piet Mondrian.  Mondrian’s work captured the public imagination in the post-war years, but his signature geometric style was not developed by him until after the original windows at Sacre Coeur were installed, and he did not reach the peak of this style until the late 1930s and early 1940s.

One of several windows seemingly inspired by the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian

One of several windows seemingly inspired by the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian

One of several windows seemingly inspired by the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian

One of several windows seemingly inspired by the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian

There are other windows in this Basilica that, although still quite modern, are at least more in keeping with traditional ecclesiastical stained glass window conventions.  It’s a shame that a real attempt wasn’t made to restore, or even reproduce, the 1920s designs.  I can’t help thinking they would have been more appropriate than these.

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