While opinions differ on its precise history, it is believed that the hills of Montmartre have been occupied since Gallo roman times. Popular history suggests the Church of Saint-Pierre, which sits alongside the Sacre-Coeur to this today, has been a place of worship since as far back as the third century. Montmartre’s origins, like its demarcations have often owed more to nostalgia than official documentation.
In 1790, following the French Revolution, Montmartre officially became a an official area for the first time. Under the National Assembly’s decision to divide France into departments and communes, Montmartre became a municipality, with borders. As the new city walls had just been finished, the lower section of Montmartre (today the 9th arrondissement), was consequently annexed from Montmartre, and officially became a part of Paris.
Montmartre’s new limits were as followed:
To the north: The commune of Saint-Ouen became the northern limits of Montmartre. It did however, cover the lower half the Saint-Ouen cemetery. This mean that it would originally have included area that now houses the world famous Marche des Puces.
To the east: The commune of La Chapelle became the frontier of the new Montmartre. This meant that the Chemin des Poissonniers (the present day Rue des Poissonniers).
To the south: The new city walls would border Montmartre. The general farmers wall, which annexed Bas Montmartre into Paris, became the new boundary. The remains of Montmartre’s southern border run along present day Boulevard Clichy, Boulevard de Rochechouart and Boulevard de la Chapelle.
The the west: The commune of Clichy was the most western border of Montmartre. Later, this would extend to include the commune of Batignolles.
Montmartre’s boundaries would endure for the next 50 years, until the Thiers wall—Paris’ last defence wall—was erected between 1840 and 1845. The wall, which would later be the foundation for the Boulevard Périphérique which now encircles the city, divided Montmartre in half. During the early part of the 19th century, a hamlet began to develop in the eastern part of the village. This area became known as Chateau Rouge in 1844, and furthered decreased Montmartre’s limits.
In 1859, the Farmers wall was extended to the Thiers wall and the commune of Montmartre was abolished. The area north of wall officially became Saint-Ouen, while the remaining section became the ‘Butte Montmartre’. This extension of Paris meant that Montmartre joined the city for the first time in 1860.
Over the course of the next century, hamlets and communes would emerge within the area, forming their own local identities. Today, Montmartre’s limits are undefined, but its generally accepted that the village is now little more than the area surrounding the Sacré-Cœur. While its southern border is the same as its original 1790 limit, it’s generally accepted that Montmartre reaches no further north than Jules Joffrin.
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