Montmartre is a hill in the north of Paris, France. It is 130 metres high and gives its name to the surrounding district. Montmartre is primarily known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré Cœur on its summit and as a nightclub district. The other, older, church on the hill is Saint Pierre de Montmartre, which claims to be the location at which the Jesuit order of priests was founded. Many artists had studios or worked around the community of Montmartre such as Salvador Dalí, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. Christianised as Montmartre, signifying ‘mountain of the martyr’; it owes this name to the martyrdom of Saint Denis, who was decapitated on the hill around 250 AD. Saint Denis was the Bishop of Paris and is a patron saint of France.
Since Montmartre was outside the city limits, free of Paris taxes and no doubt also due to the fact that the local nuns made wine, the hill quickly became a popular drinking area. The area developed into a centre of free-wheeling and decadent entertainment at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. In the popular cabaret the Moulin Rouge, and at Le Chat Noir, artists, singers and performers regularly appeared.
The Basilica of the Sacré Cœur was built on Montmartre from 1876 to 1912 by public subscription as a gesture of expiation of the “crimes of the communards”, after the Paris Commune events, and to honour the French victims of the 1871 Franco-Prussian War. Its white dome is a highly visible landmark in the city, and just below it artists still set up their easels each day amidst the tables and colourful umbrellas of Place du Tertre.
In the mid-19th century, artists such as Johan Jongkind and Camille Pissarro came to inhabit Montmartre. But only at the end of the century did the district become the principal artistic center of Paris. A restaurant opened near the old windmill near the top, the Moulin de la Galette. Artists’ associations such as Les Nabis and the Incoherents were formed and individuals including Vincent van Gogh, Pierre Brissaud, Alfred Jarry, Gen Paul, Jacques Villon, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Henri Matisse, André Derain, Suzanne Valadon, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Maurice Utrillo, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Théophile Steinlen, and African-American expatriates such as Langston Hughes worked in Montmartre and drew some of their inspiration from the area. Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, and other impoverished artists lived and worked in a commune, a building called Le Bateau-Lavoir, during the years 1904–1909. Composers, including Satie (who was a pianist at Le Chat Noir), also lived in the area.
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