Wednesday, 17 April 2019

The fire in Notre Dame is a symbol, but of what?

I don't want the terrible fire to be symbolic but it is, of course. Notre Dame is a monument to belief in the Holy Trinity, not to Western civilisation, but it seems to symbolise Christendom. I wish I had properly visited it when I had the chance. There are no words for how I feel about this.

Inevitably, Notre Dame has a different symbolism for different people and is being used for political purposes by conservatives, liberals, liberal and conservative Catholics, communists and fascists. A left-wing online magazine in New Zealand called The Spinoff:
The far-right wants to identify Notre Dame as a pinnacle achievement of “Western civilisation” – a dog whistle term for white civilisation. In many cases, this is blatant. In his YouTube video, [Stefan] Molyneux described Notre Dame as a Western achievement, then went on to argue that white men were responsible for “way more than 90 percent of scientific innovations from 800 BC to 1950 AD,” a reference to a debunked statistic from race scientist Charles Murray
Here is something from an article in Rolling Stone:
But for some people in France, Notre Dame has also served as a deep-seated symbol of resentment, a monument to a deeply flawed institution and an idealized Christian European France that arguably never existed in the first place. “The building was so overburdened with meaning that its burning feels like an act of liberation,” says Patricio del Real, an architecture historian at
Harvard University. If nothing else, the cathedral has been viewed by some as a stodgy reminder of “the old city — the embodiment of the Paris of stone and faith — just as the Eiffel Tower exemplifies the Paris of modernity, joie de vivre and change,” Michael Kimmelmann wrote for the New York Times.....

....Now that the world has rallied in support of the rebuilding of the cathedral, however, and donations have started pouring in from all over the world, there’s likely to be renewed interest around the cathedral as an emblem of French history and culture. For some, this is deeply concerning. “One of the things that worries me about this event is that in a country that is deeply divided right now like France is and having this assumption of [Notre Dame] serving as a bedrock institution, it creates a hole and you have to imagine what it has to become again and who does the imagining, and that is a really loaded question,” says Harwood.

Although Macron and donors like Pinault have emphasized that the cathedral should be rebuilt as close to the original as possible, some architectural historians like Brigniani believe that would be complicated, given the many stages of the cathedral’s evolution. “The question becomes, which Notre Dame are you actually rebuilding?,” he says. Harwood, too, believes that it would be a mistake to try to recreate the edifice as it once stood, as LeDuc did more than 150 years ago. Any rebuilding should be a reflection not of an old France, or the France that never was — a non-secular, white European France — but a reflection of the France of today, a France that is currently in the making.
I am not a fan of Viollet-le-Duc, and hope the restored cathedral resembles the one he remodelled. Viollet-le-Duc was a French Sir Gilbert Scott and, by the way, recommended his pupil, André Lecomte du Nouy, to remodel the monastery at Curtea de Arges.

Here are some interesting tweets.

Catholics arguing - seriously - that the fire at was divine Providence.

That Notre Dame is burning in Holy Week means something. But what?

Unpopular opinion: Londoners are usu quite indifferent to St Paul's. Not even blitz iconography rescued it. It doesn't feel like our Minster; more like a giant neoclassical folly that the smaller, humbler, more English churches throw shade on.

Notre Dame is the property of the French state, thanks to the anti-clerical laws of the early 20th century. That is something that is going to come to the forefront of discussion in the coming days.

"Instinctively I have the feeling that Providence has created France either for complete success or for exemplary misfortunes" (De Gaulle) - and in overcoming those misfortunes, to show its greatness.

In 2017 noted the French state only invested about 2 million a year for basic maintenance, but the cathedral had pieces falling off for years. The Archbishop of Paris was looking for 100 million. The cathedral did not burn by “accident”.

You lost Notre Dame long ago. It just had to burn down for you to see it.

What a loss.
Being a Muslim, it was my wish to visit once.

It is the European people carved in stone


  1. “It seems to me that five years to reconstruct a cathedral is a little bit short; five years to have to put up with Emmanuel Macron’s speeches is a bit long.”

    Manuel Bompard

    1. I do not think M Macron will win re-election and hope he does not.

    2. Thank you for very funny quotation. You are a good collector of unconsidered trifles, like me.

    3. Have you read Aubrey's Brief Lives and Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy?

  2. It may be politically incorrect to say so but Monday’s fire, to many of us, felt like a metaphor for the recent conflagration of those precious moral concepts. French president Emmanuel Macron, who rushed to the scene, had this to say: “Notre Dame is our history, our literature, part of our psyche, the place of all our great events, our epidemics, our wars, our liberations, the epicentre of our lives.”

    Macron announced a national project to rebuild the cathedral because, “it is our profound destiny”. All this was noble and fair. But measure it against the record of the liberal political class he embodies. The Macrons and Merkels of this world — like the Blairs and Camerons and Cleggs and so many other equivocating cultural cowards — have long preached secularisation. They have diluted Christian values in our laws and public life."

    Quentin Letts, a good Catholic and Tory, writing in the Sun.

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  4. Interview with former architect of ND, very interesting:

    [nb other link I sent doesn't work anymore, delete post]

  5. This is very interesting. He thinks arson is possible. I have no idea but it is very strange, very telling and very dismaying that people who merely ask if it was arson are being demonised in left-of-centre newspapers like the Independent.

  6. The only thing remarkable about a footy player preaching the Gospel is that this is considered an unforgivable offence. Sharing sex videos or being arrested for drunken brawling and indecent exposure warrant slaps and suspensions; preaching against sin is deemed to deserve immediate and absolute banishment.

    Mark the hypocrisy with which the world, on one hand, condemns the Bible-thumping preaching of the Gospel by a footy player, and with the other hand mourns the Cathedral of Notre Dame in literal flames. The contrast is remarkable. The world has piously intoned, ‘We reject God’s concerns about us as hateful bigotry; but mourn the temporary flames burning a sanctuary which preached exactly those Scriptures.”

    The images of the burning cathedral shadow the choices laid before us every Good Friday and every time Folau opens his Instagram account. We can choose to be outraged that there is an objective standard in Scripture (of which we all fall short); or we can accept the free offer being celebrated once more this Easter of the prescription for salvation from the curse and consequences of sin. Folau said what he believes and said it well enough: we need only turn away from our sin and come to Jesus while His precious gift of time permits.

  7. “or we can accept the free offer being celebrated once more this Easter of the prescription for salvation from the curse and consequences of sin.”

    Yes God’s freely offering salvation from the curse he made us with in the first place - if only we worship him and thank him for sacrificing himself to himself.

    A bit like the mafia requesting protection money to stop “criminals” bricking in their windows. Nice offer. Think I’ll pass.

    1. 'the curse he made us with' is aka 'free will'

      ...the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one's own discretion.

      says gugal

    2. Not sure where there is the free will in an electrical short circuit.

      And if it was arson God could have put out the fire without affecting the free will of the arsonists whose would still have wanted to burn down the building just would not have succeeded. A fire itself has no free will.

      Unless of course you are arguing that God does not intervene in the natural world at all. In which case why do you pray for people or for anything? Your prayers are completely useless. You can’t have it both ways.

    3. 'Not sure where there is the free will'

      In accepting, or not, God offer of salvation...

    4. 'Your prayers are completely useless'

      You're right about that... I was praying God to put some sense into your head...

  8. Unconsidered trifle #1:

    If there is one thing that orthodox Christians and Jews have agreed upon for two thousand years, it is that Judeo-Christian is a contradiction in terms.


  9. Opinion
    Why Did Nonbelievers Grieve for Notre-Dame?
    Religion goes on, whether or not people honor its traditions.
    By Christopher Caldwell

    1. Honestly what a dumb question. For
      French and for Europeans more widely Notre Dame was the proud achievement of their ancestor engineers. Had it been an 800 year old castle instead of a cathedral would you be asking why non-believers were sorry to see it burned down? The fact that what Notre Dame was built to honour is false is beside the point. If the remains of the Temple of Athena in Athens were blown up would you have to be a believer in Athena to be sad about it?

    2. 'Why Did Nonbelievers Grieve for Notre-Dame?'

      "The decline of religion does not seem to have grounded people in something more true.
      That is partly why the fire at Notre-Dame shook so many to the core. Objects and traditions bound up with religious belief lend a feeling of sense and stability. For believers they are a reinforcement. For nonbelievers they are a substitute. Notre-Dame is perhaps the greatest such object in Europe. It is a consoling relic, as surely as the crown of thorns that Father Fournier rescued, and this is so for believers and nonbelievers alike."

  10. The Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, is renowned for his calm demeanor and easy-going manner. That made it all the more significant when, during a recent radio interview following President Emmanuel Macron’s address to the nation about the burning of Notre-Dame Cathedral, Aupetit expressed his astonishment at Macron’s failure to mention Catholics as among those affected by the drama surrounding what is, after all, a functioning and active Catholic cathedral. “Le mot catholique n’est pas un gros mot,” he insisted. (“The word ‘Catholic’ is not a swear word.”)