Millions around the globe were stunned & saddened this past week when the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris was gutted by a raging fire, ! It was certainly more than just some typical church on fire, and it was quite noticeable to most that this pillar of our civilization caught on fire during the most holy week in church history!
I couldn’t believe the live feed on TV! Of course, in this day and age you wonder if the fire started due to terrorism, a homeless person’s accidental campfire or the Muslim encampments in central Paris? I’ve been following the recent ‘Yellow Coat’ protests for several months in Paris, those folks are basically regular working people, church people, not violent types. The fire was not started on a weekend when they gather.
The church was designed and constructed in midieval ages (1100’s – 1200’s) when the populace wasn’t educated. Hierarchy built it thinking the ignorant public should learn the story of the Bible thru statuary, hence all the carvings, hideous gargoyles.
Rich Lowry said it well the other day, ‘Notre Dame stands for so many qualities that we now lack — patience and staying power, the cultivation of beauty, a deep religious faith, a cultural confidence and ambition that could create a timeless monument of our civilization — that the collapse of its spire was almost too much to bear.’
Yes, it was to me almost unbearable. It was a beacon of national identity thru world wars. Napoleon was crowned there, De Gaulle celebrated the end of the WWII there. Plagues and monarchs couldn’t destroy it. “It was the work of generations
, completed over the course of 300 years, in a triumph over considerable architectural and logistical challenges,” Lowry said. The cathedral witnessed “countless processions and services to petition and thank God on behalf of the French nation. It was where illustrious marriages occurred, where Napoleon crowned himself emperor, where Charles de Gaulle attended a Mass to celebrate the liberation of Paris in 1944, rifle fire echoing outside.”
“It arose at the original site of a pagan temple. Thousands of tons of stone had to be transported from outside Paris for it, one ox cart or barge at a time. To achieve its soaring height and hold up its ceiling and walls, it relied on the innovative use of the rib vault and flying buttress. France built 80 cathedrals and 500 large churches across this period, but there was only one Notre Dame of Paris, a Gothic jewel whose towers, prior to the advent of the Eiffel Tower, were the tallest structure in Paris.”
“Notre Dame has been thoughtfully restored and preserved over the years, to our credit. But it’s difficult not to discern a distressing message in the wanton destruction that ravaged the iconic cathedral — what prior generations so carefully and faithfully built, we are losing.”
Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review.
I’m not the type that worships physical buildings but this is a case where a faith, a national identity and art came together to typify a people. I’ve studied Western civilization and Europe went thru cataclysmic growth of thought, struggles and rebirths in the neighborhoods surrounding that cathedral. Peasants visited it as well as Presidents, artists as well as the faithful. People would look to that place as a way to describe the heart of a city. The Eiffel Tower is not in the same category. It is not a Protestant church like I’m used to, but when you study history and read what that part of the globe went thru down thru the centuries, those kinds of buildings have important significance, even now. Especially since many nowadays are disparaging faith, national identity.
Life is mysterious, we like and need mystery but we can’t always pinpoint what it is and where to find it. We can say if someone goes to college they’ll be more apt to get a good job, but that’s not a mystery. That can actually dampen mystery, when you have things all figured out. Notre Dame was such a place of mysterious faith, beauty and reality all in one structure.
Life’s true mystery is evident in the moments between jobs and money. It’s the life we spend with family and friends, the manner we strive to achieve our dreams, the way we honor others in the world thru our life in God! This fire just reminded me of the strong yet fragile ways our national identities are constructed and that we have to preserve the dignity and trust of the faithful at all costs!
HAPPY EASTER AND PASSOVER!