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The Church of Saint Peter of Montmartre (French: Église Saint-Pierre de Montmartre) is one of the oldest surviving churches in Paris but the lesser known of the two main churches in Montmartre, the other being the more famous 19th-century Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Saint-Pierre de Montmartre, built in 1147, was the church of the prestigious Montmartre Abbey.
Though according to its traditional history, it was founded by Saint Denis in the third century, only scattered signs of Gallo-Roman occupation have been detected at the much-disturbed site, where Théodore Vacquier, the first municipal archaeologist of Paris, identified remains of walling as belonging to the Temple of Mars, from which Montmartre took its name. In 1657, the antiquary and local historian Henri Sauval was shown remains in the priory garden that he associated with the templum Martis.
The early church that was a stop in the ninth century for pilgrims en route for the Saint Denis Basilica, belonged in 1096 to the comte de Melun. Louis VI purchased it in 1133, in order to establish in it the Montmartre Abbey, and the Merovingian church was rebuilt; it was reconsecrated by Pope Eugenius III in 1147, in a splendid royal ceremony where Bernard of Clairvaux and Peter, Abbot of Cluny acted as acolytes.
The 1670s and early 1680s marked a special moment in the history of the abbey. During the years when Françoise Renée de Lorraine, the sister of Marie, Duchess of Guise, was abbess, and especially while Marguerite Louise d'Orléans, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, was in confined residence there (starting in 1675), music came to play an important role in the abbey religious services. Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Marie's composer, wrote devotional music to be performed there. The Benedictine community moved downhill to a new priory in the 1680s.
In 1794, the apse of the church was battered by the construction of the Chappe Tower. As a result, the eastern parts of the church were not returned to worship when it reopened after the French revolution in 1803. It was in a deplorable state, and restoration campaigns in 1838-1845 and 1874 were too limited to prevent its ruin. The closure of the church for security reasons in 1896 seemed to be final, and the decision to rescue it was only taken at the last minute. The restoration was undertaken under the direction of Louis Sauvageot between 1900 and 1905, and the church of Saint-Pierre then got its current face. The church today is visited by numerous tourists who tend to notice, among other things, the columns of Roman origin used in the nave.
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