Notre-Dame Burns – a Tragic Symbol of our Civilisation?
By Duncan Whitmore
As most readers will have heard, the famed Notre-Dame de Paris, one of the most splendid examples of French gothic architecture and an icon of European religious and cultural heritage, was severely damaged by fire on Monday of this week. Such was the dominance of the building that has owned the Paris skyline for centuries before the Eiffel Tower, the sight of huge flames and thick smoke billowing out as they consumed the irreplaceable edifice was captured first-hand by much of the city’s population.
The fact that this terrible event should happen now to such a splendorous achievement of Western civilisation – and in the very city which is currently experiencing the most explicit degree of discontentment with globalising policies – is a symbol of tragic irony. This cathedral managed to survive the calamities of the French Revolution and two world wars – yet it has had to cling on to life by the very tips of its fingernails in the era of twenty-first century leftism. All of those politicians and pundits who took to Twitter to express their grief at the loss of a cultural icon – among them Macron, Merkel, Clinton, Obama, as well as the EU clowns of the Juncker/Verhofstadt variety – are the very people we can see are doing their level best to destroy the civilisation and cultural heritage that this cathedral represented.
The response of French President Macron in particular is telling. In spite of the fact that experts in restoration estimate that rebuilding the cathedral will take a minimum of ten to fifteen years (and probably longer), Macron has promised with gusto to complete the job in a mere five, ready in time for the Paris Summer Olympics in 2024.
Could anything more neatly sums up the attitude of the left? To them, all of the benefits of Western civilisation – its wealth, its beauty, its treasures – are there to be taken for granted, as replaced as easily as they are snatched away from us. They have no care whatsoever for the painstaking preservation of the social, economic and cultural foundations that are necessary to make these things possible. Everything is there to be picked, used, exploited and enjoyed while “someone else” is made to foot the bill when it all goes wrong.
Indeed, in spite of all of the confessions of heartbreak, the fact that Notre-Dame was already crumbling perhaps betrays the real order of priorities. The building is owned by the French government, which refused to provide the bulk of the funds for the renovation that was needed prior to the fire, with one Ministry of Culture official claiming “it will not fall down” – regrettable words, in retrospect. The Archdiocese of Paris therefore had to appeal to the generosity of the public to raise most of the money. Moreover, although the fire is, at the time of writing, being accredited to renovation work on the cathedral’s spire, it appears as though regular, active vandalism of Christian churches throughout France – including, last month, an arson attack on Saint-Sulpice, a monumental Parisian church that is only slightly smaller than Notre-Dame – rarely makes headline news.
The roof and spire of Notre-Dame have been all but obliterated. Fortunately, however, the basic, stone structure, as well as much of the cathedral’s interior – protected by the vault ceiling – emerged relatively unscathed. So too have most of its artistic and sacred treasures, including the historic rose windows. Notre-Dame will rise again. But her near demise should be a final wake up call to all of those who cherish the civilisation of which she is a part, for the fire threatening this is still raging. Let us hope that, like the foundations of Notre-Dame, the treasures of our society that made it so peaceful and so prosperous are still intact. We must continue the fight to ensure that Notre-Dame’s resurrection becomes more symbolic of our civilisation than her narrowly averted destruction.
AFTERWORD: The French government announced today that it will invite designs of possible replacements for Notre-Dame’s lost spire from leading architects. According to the BBC, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told reporters they hoped for “a new spire that is adapted to the techniques and the challenges of our era”. Given the leftist interpretation of these challenges, would it be too cynical to begin despairing as to what kind of abomination might end up on top of this great building?