Synopses & Reviews
In a richly layered and beautifully illustrated narrative, Raymond Jonas tells the fascinating and surprisingly little-known story of the Sacrand#233;-Coeur, or Sacred Heart. The highest point in Paris and a celebrated tourist destination, the white-domed basilica of Sacrand#233;-Coeur on Montmartre is a key monument both to French Catholicism and to French national identity. Jonas masterfully reconstructs the history of the devotion responsible for the basilica, beginning with the apparition of the Sacred Heart to Marguerite Marie Alacoque in the seventeenth century, through the French Revolution and its aftermath, to the construction of the monumental church that has loomed over Paris since the end of the nineteenth century.
Jonas focuses on key moments in the development of the cult: the founding apparition, its invocation during the plague of Marseilles, its adaptation as a royalist symbol during the French Revolution, and its elevation to a central position in Catholic devotional and political life in the crisis surrounding the Franco-Prussian War. He draws on a wealth of archival sources to produce a learned yet accessible narrative that encompasses a remarkable sweep of French politics, history, architecture, and art.
"In a fascinating and long-overdue narrative, Jonas tells of France's profound devotion to the Sacré-Coeur—a legend combining nationalistic and religious elements in which Jesus offered his
heart as a symbol of divine love for humanity only after making specific requests of France and her king. Jesus' apparitions to Marguerite-Marie Alacoque, giving France the special status of 'Eldest Daughter of the Church,' occurred late in the 17th century when Louis XIV, the Sun King, was still on the throne. But it was in the throes of the 19th century when the cult reached its greatest fervor, beginning with the beatification of Marguerite-Marie Alacoque in the 1830's and culminating at the turbulent fin de siècle with the construction of the inimitable basilica of Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre on the highest hill in Paris. 'Prior to 1789, the Sacred Heart addressed anxieties about apostasy, error, and schism,' Jonas writes. 'Afterward, it challenged a revolution held to be hostile to Catholic belief, public order, and the essentially Catholic nature and vocation of France.' There is little wonder, then, that the cult of the Sacred Heart grew stronger as the country endured a series of political upheavals, and eventually grew to represent a Christian patriotic alternative to a secular, republican culture. Jonas's study is a thoroughly enjoyable account of one of France's most remarkable traditions." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
About the Author
Raymond Jonas, Professor of History at the University of Washington, is the author of France and the Cult of the Sacred Heart: An Epic Tale for Modern Times (California, 2000), Industry and Politics in Rural France: Peasants of the Isand#232;re, 1870-1914 (1994), and Le Sacrand#233;-Coeur; histoire d'une dand#233;votion du XVIe au XXe siand#232;cle (2004).