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Paray-le-Monial basilica visitor guide

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Visit Paray-le-Monial basilica, France

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The basilica of the Sacré-Cœur is the principal historic monument in the town of Paray-le-Monial, in the Saône-et-Loire department of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region in the east of France.

Paray-le-Monial has been an important pilgrim town since the 17th century when Christ made several apparitions to a local nun, Saint Margaret-Mary Alacoque and Paray-le-Monial continues to attract 100,000 pilgrims each year. The basilica is a focus of a visit.

Explore the basilica in Paray-le-Monial

France This Way comment: the basilica in Paray-le-Monial is an impressive example of roman style architecture, in an attractive location next to the river and with several features of interest, and enthusiasts of religious architecture will certainly want to visit when touring Burgundy

A church has existed in this location since the 10th century but this original building - and the church that replaced it in the early 11th century - have completely disappeared and work started on the basilica we see today in the 11th century, to be largely completed in the 12th century although not completely finished until the 14th century when the upper part of the belltower ws completed.

exterior and chevet of the basilica in Paray-le-Monial

The basilica had a challenging three centuries ahead, with the Hundred Years War, the Wars between Burgundy and France, and the Wars of Religion all causing damage to the building and the collapse of the belltower.

The monks repaired the basilica to its original design as far as possible, although for the facade this ws not possible and they built large walls in front of the towers in the facade to prevent their collapse.

The priory next to the basilica was rebuilt in the middle of the 18th century, at the same time as large scale reconstruction was carried out to mend the damage caused to the basilica by the revolution, and the neglect of the building in the decades after the revolution. This included removing the reinforcing walls added by the monks and rectifying the problems with the facade.

The church was designated as the basilica of Paray-le-Monial in 1875, and the church we see today is essentially the same as that time.

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Start your visit with a walk around the outside of the basilica. Although the facade is rather austere the tall towers to either side of the entrance have roman style arches at the upper levels that add some interest.

The highlight is the chevet, the rear of the basilica, with a very traditional roman style that includes a series of round chapels around the rear of the building. The entrance door is quite simple, but very elegant with carved columns around the door and a row of small carvings in the lintel.

The interior of the basilica follows a traditional layout, with three naves, a transept below the large central tower, and a choir area with a series of chapels. The inside is painted in a light cream colour, so the building is very light and welcoming.

The main nave is separated from the side naves by roman style arches formed by large stone columns, many which have retained their capital stones, carved with characters and foliage. Take the time to inspect these carvings, many of them are very interesting and incorporate biblical creatures such as eagles, griffins and lions.

Above the arches you can see a row of blind arches and then a row of windows allowing light to flood the interior.

At the rear of the church, a path behind the choir area (called the ambulatory) allows access to the three chapels. The dome of the choir area has a large medieval fresco of Jesus, and a row of stained glass windows.

Next to the basilca you can visit the cloister of the basilica. This is an 18th century reconstruction of the original cloister, with quite simple arches and a well maintained garden, that retain the original style, as seen in the two doorways into the cloisters.

The cloisters also now contain access to a Museum of Faience as well as a centre for pilgrims and an explanation of the history of the apparitions that took place here and that make the basilica an important desination for pilgims..

Note: you can visit the basilica with a guide every day in July and August at 14.30 or with an audio-guide the whole year, during opening hours (morning; 9:00 - 12:30 // afternoon : 13:30 - 18:00)

Pretty cloisters in the basilica in Paray-le-Monial

Attractions nearby

The town has several other interesting buildings: see the Paray-le-Monial guide.

For visitors interested in religious architecture, the basilica at Paray-le-Monial provides an idea of what the abbey at Cluny looked like in its original form. You can visit this abbey about 40 kilometres east of Paray-le-Monial.

There are also impressive examples of roman style architecture at the priory of Anzy-le-Duc and the Collegiale Saint-Hilaire in Semur-en-Brionnais.

See more churches in France. You can find more travel ideas in the Saone-et-Loire guide and the Burgundy guide.

See also: 

Photos of Paray-le-Monial basilica

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Map of Paray-le-Monial basilica and places nearby

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Visit near Paray-le-Monial basilica with France This Way reviews

Paray-le-Monial

Paray-le-Monial

The 12th century abbey and other buildings and the pretty setting make the Basilica du Sacré-Coeur at Paray-le-Monial one of the most visited sites in France

Paray-le-Monial guide
Anzy-le-Duc

Anzy-le-Duc

Much the most visited site in this pretty village is the Priory of Anzy-le-Duc

Anzy-le-Duc guide
Semur-en-Brionnais

Semur-en-Brionnais

As well as the pretty village itself, you can also visit the Chateau de Saint-Hugues and Collegiale Saint-Hilaire in Semur-en-Brionnais

Semur-en-Brionnais guide
Cluny

Cluny

As well as one of the most visited abbeys in France Cluny also has a picturesque town centre to explore

Cluny guide
Lapalisse

Lapalisse

The renaissance style Chateau de la Palice, its internal decorations and its gardens are the main highlight when you visit Lapalisse

Lapalisse guide
Cormatin

Cormatin

The beautifully decorated and furnished Cormatin Chateau, from the 17th century, is the highlight of your visit

Cormatin guide

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Saone-et-Loire

The French version of this page is at Paray-le-Monial basilica (Francais)

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