Uncommon Attraction: Sacré-Coeur de la Balata, Martinique
As our Caribbean islands were once envisioned as miniature replicas of Europe by the colonial powers that once held sway here, it follows that you can find and enjoy more than a few attractions around the region that bear more than a passing resemblance to points of interest in many European capitals.
Arguably the best place in the Caribbean to take in such European sights – Martinique.
Among the best of her Euro-style attractions – the Sacré-Coeur de la Balata.
If you’ve ever been to Paris, you may recognize it as a miniature version of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, or Basilica Montmartre. Construction on that more famous minor basilica started in 1875, though it wasn’t completed until 1915. In-between there, a major event in Martinique’s history spurred the construction of the copycat church in Balata.
That event, the May 1902 eruption of Mount Pelée, destroyed Martinique’s former capital, Saint-Pierre. This gave rise to Fort-de-France becoming the island’s principal city, but not without some growing pains.
The thousands of inhabitants formerly living in the outskirts of Saint-Pierre in the north descended upon Fort-de-France in the south, stretching what was the then smaller city’s services for a time. Among the chief lacking items – another church.
And so it was that a local bishop named Lequien set in motion the construction of Le Sacré-Coeur de la Balata. The year: 1915.
Just as the Basilica Montmartre sits atop Paris at the city’s highest point, the Sacré-Coeur de la Balata is located high in the hills above Fort-de-France. The view alone from up here is always worth the trip, though knowing a bit of the history and the church’s connection to Paris makes it even better.
Sacré-Coeur de la Balata is open daily from 8am to 12pm, and 3pm to 6pm. Services are held on Saturdays at 6:30pm and Sunday mornings at 8am.