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In thinking about Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, I will never forget the power that a beautiful house of worship can have on the human heart.

I saw several French cathedrals for the first time decades ago.

When taking tours of Notre-Dame cathedrals in Paris and Chartres, the respective guides told us that those majestic houses of worship were built for ‘the glory of God’.

Confession

A Catholic woman of my acquaintance visited Notre-Dame in Paris a few years ago for the first time. She had not been to confession in at least 20 years and suddenly felt compelled to confess her sins before a priest. She duly did so in the magnificent cathedral.

The priest held out a large crucifix and gently urged her to touch Christ’s wounds as she made her confession. She was moved to tears. She said it was one of the most meaningful religious experiences she’d ever had.

Conversion

Vatican Cardinal Raymond Burke said that the surroundings of Notre-Dame de Paris were so powerful that the French poet Paul Claudel converted to Christianity.

On Tuesday, April 16, 2019, the day after the fire, The Daily Wire reported (emphases mine):

Not only did Notre Dame glorify God with its beauty, it also had the power to convert men’s hearts, according to the cardinal, as in the case of poet Paul Claudel.

“It is fitting to recall that it was in the same cathedral that the poet Paul Claudel (1868-1955) had a singular experience of the beauty of God, during the chanting of the Magnificat while attending Vespers on Christmas of 1886,” said Burke. “His singular experience on that Christmas night led to his conversion to the Catholic faith. It should not escape us that the via pulchritudinis, the way of beauty, is a most important and irreplaceable means of announcing God to a culture fraught with secularism and materialism.”

I could not agree more.

Contemplation

At the very least, most visitors to Notre-Dame enter a spirit of contemplation.

Everyone is quiet, and that, to me, seems in spite of rules about decorum.

I always wanted to sit there for an afternoon to meditate and pray after touring the cathedral. Unfortunately, because of busy schedules during my visits, I was never able to spend much time in contemplation and prayer. My friends were always waiting for me, the last one to leave.

House of God

Cardinal Burke had this to say about Notre-Dame’s beauty and the intention behind it:

“For Catholics, churches are not monuments but are the House of God, in which we really and truly encounter Heaven,” he said. “Because of God’s immeasurable and unceasing love of us in the Church, churches are also the House of the Church.”

That relationship with God, Burke notes, is what spurred our Medieval ancestors into erecting such a glorious monument. “For that reason, the faithful in the 12th Century employed only the most beautiful and enduring materials in constructing the Cathedral which was intended to last throughout the ages until the Coming of Our Lord at the end of time,” he said.

Why more people do not understand that is beyond me. That includes Christians, too, by the way.

Going into Notre-Dame de Paris or any of the other great cathedrals is as close as we can get in this transitory life to a glimpse of Heaven.

Let us pray that Notre-Dame is rebuilt and restored — respectfully and lovingly — to its original state for future generations.

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Not knowing the circumstances surrounding the inferno at Notre-Dame in Paris is bad enough.

Now lovers of the mediaeval cathedral, the French capital’s monumental house of worship, wonder what is meant by the words ‘restoration’ and ‘rebuilding’.

Does the French government consider the two words to be the same as the average person who treasures what was lost? What about expert architects? What about building contractors?

This was what the cathedral looked like at the end of the day on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. Protective coverings were placed over the vulnerable parts of the structure:

One week later, on Tuesday, April 30, Paris police released aerial footage of the protective sheet covering the cathedral’s massive roof from a drone’s eye view:

That day, Le Huffington Post reported findings of a YouGov poll they commissioned in France which showed that 54 per cent of people want a restoration ‘identical to the original’. Only 25 per cent support President Macron and Prime Minister Philippe’s plan for an ‘architectural gesture’:

Twenty-one percent of the people surveyed were undecided.

The more conservative the participant, the greater the desire for a full, authentic restoration: from 66 per cent to 69 per cent, depending on political orientation.

A design firm from Lyon, NAB, released its plans for a greenhouse roof garden and spire containing beehives unlikely to please those who love the original structure with its dramatic vaults. Le Huffington Post published NAB’s shocking images on April 26. Have a chair nearby, because you’ll need a sit down and a cuppa after seeing them.

That same day, Le HuffPo released a short video wherein an architect, a historian, an urban design expert and a sociologist gave their opinions of the current buzz by government officials, architects and building firms about the cathedral’s reconstruction. Interviewed separately, they said the same things. The project seemed to be politically motivated, with an objective of proposed plans devised too hastily involving companies eager to make money at the expense of France’s — and the world’s — heritage. One said that the stone needs at least a year to dry out thoroughly, therefore, completing the reconstruction in five years’ time was a nonsense:

Those hoping to be part of Prime Minister Philippe’s working group on the way forward for Notre-Dame will need to take UNESCO’s perspective on board, too. Fortunately, UNESCO agrees with the French public with whom YouGov spoke:

The Art Newspaper‘s editorial begins with this (emphases mine):

The 28 April appeal by over 1000 academics, restorers and architects for an extension to President Macron’s five-year deadline for the restoration of Notre Dame can find comfort in the the cathedral’s status as a Unesco World Heritage site, because the guidelines on how to approach restoring such a great monument already exist.

They are implicit in the conditions accepted by France when Notre-Dame was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1991 as part of a grouping that includes the great buildings along the Seine from the Pont de Sully to the Pont de Bir-Hakeim.

First and foremost, Notre Dame’s World Heritage status calls for international principles of restoration to be integrated into the discussions on how to restore it. Decisions will have to be taken on how to consolidate its structural parts, restore the damaged surfaces, reconstruct the roof, the spire and the stained-glass windows. All these choices need to be made in accordance with the conservation principles promoted by the World Heritage Convention and expressed in the Conservation Charters of the International Council on Museums and Sites (Icomos). While the international documents, starting with the 1964 Venice Charter, do not bear legal value per se, they are recognised by the French Codes as the basis for decisions on the conservation and reconstruction of historical monuments.

So far, so good.

The editorial goes on to say that this does not preclude using modern technologies and techniques to achieve a more ‘resilient and secure’ result. These would not affect what a visitor or regular worshipper sees, however:

The “contemporaneity” of this gesture will lie in its in its construction techniques and monitoring technologies, rather than the visible forms of the building.

But — and it’s a big ‘but’ — more modern stained glass might be part of the renovation and restoration:

if new windows are needed, it could be a great opportunity for contemporary artists, as with the designs of Marc Chagall and Imi Knoebel for Reims cathedral.

UGH. No, just no. Those modern stained glass designs are horrible, and I’ve viewed a number of them in European cathedrals from the 1970s to the present.

So, although that is just one man’s opinion, he happens to be Francesco Bandarin:

an architect and former senior official at Unesco, director of its World Heritage Centre (2000-2010) and assistant director-general for culture (2010-2018).

I do think a lot of French people will be upset if Notre-Dame is not restored to the original design. Admittedly, the following discussion took place on Holy Thursday, three days after the fire, when emotions were running high. From RMC’s Les Grandes Gueules:

One of the panellists, a young Protestant, said she wanted the cathedral restored to the original. She put forward her case with passion:

She said that she was quite conservative when it comes to restoring historic buildings because they are testaments to their respective eras:

Traditionalists could find 21st century help a boon to their cause.

In 2015, Andrew Tallon, an architectural historian, had the foresight to capture the complete design of Notre-Dame digitally:

As for the actual building work, BFMTV’s high-tech expert Anthony Morel said that the use of 3D design enabled one monument in Egypt to be rebuilt to the original, down to the smallest detail. He says the same can be done with Notre-Dame. This is a great little video. Just watch the pictures:

As for recreating the Forest — the oak roof — offers have been coming in from around the world from owners of large estates with old oak forests who are willing to cut down trees a few hundred years old and replant new ones.

So, although one of France’s heritage experts said on April 16 that rebuilding the Forest cannot be done

Bertrand de Feydeau, vice-president of Fondation du Patrimoine, said the cathedral’s roof cannot be rebuilt exactly as it was before the fire because “we don’t, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century.”

… do a search online for offers of oak donations and there are many news articles to read, including this one from England’s Nottingham Post on April 19:

The Duke of Rutland has pledged to send ancient oak trees from the Belvoir Castle estate to France to help with the rebuilding of Notre-Dame following a devastating fire.

The historic cathedral in Paris was hit by fire on April 15, causing huge damage to the building, large parts of which were made from wood.

Donations have been pouring in from around the world to help with the project, and British estates and gardens have also got in on the act.

Around 100 historic homes have pledged to donate oak trees which were planted hundreds of years ago to be used for timber, including the Duke of Rutland, who owns Belvoir Castle.

He said: “Anyone who lives in an old building knows there’s something special about the way it was built and the materials used.

“The trees in the original roof at Notre-Dame probably started growing over a thousand years ago.

“We’re able to donate replacements because my great-great-grandfather had the foresight to plant trees that would only be valuable long after he died.

“And in turn we’ll replant every tree we fell – someone will need them for something in another few hundred years …

Belvoir Castle itself has been destroyed by fire, last being rebuilt in 1832.

It is a member of Historic Houses, an association for independently owned historic homes and gardens in Britain.

It was the Duke of Rutland who suggested to the members they should donate oaks towards the rebuilding of Notre-Dame.

And even though they will only be able to donate a fraction of what is needed, they hope it will inspire others to do the same.

There is hope. People WANT to help — and ARE helping!

Let us continue to pray for the proper and full restoration of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.

My next post will look at Notre-Dame from the perspective of the positive influence of aesthetics on the meaningful religious experience.

Last week, I posted various opinions about the mysterious cause of the fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.

This second part largely concerns the oak beams in the roof and what one architectural expert said in an interview afterwards.

I have also added a Twitter thread identifying the mystery man from the cathedral’s tower.

The oak Forest

On Tuesday, April 16, 2019 — the day after the blaze — Canada’s National Post reported on the cathedral’s roof, known as the Forest (emphases mine):

Among the biggest challenges facing the reconstruction of the iconic church is rebuilding the intricate latticework of wooden beams that made up the roof’s frame, known as the “Forest.”

The 800-year-old oak beams were added to the cathedral in 1220. Because of the building’s gothic style which called for high vaulted ceilings, tall, sturdy oaks were sourced from nearby forests.

Each beam that held up the lead roof was constructed from a single tree, requiring about 13,000 individual trees in total, CNN reported.

When workers began constructing the roof hundreds of years ago, they cleared 21 hectares of oak trees. To reach the heights required for the style, carpenters needed to use massive trees. That meant when the trees were cut down, they likely would have been 300 to 400 years old. In other words, the trees used to build the cathedral — immortalized in Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” — sprouted in the eighth or ninth centuries.

To get the dimensions and structure right in the Middle Ages, workers first built the frame on the ground. Then, it would be disassembled and hoisted to the ceiling with lifting gear, where it was reassembled. The oak beams would be set at 55-degree angles as the gothic style called for.

“Its dimensions are impressive,” the church’s website says. It’s more than 100 metres long, 13 metres wide and the transept is 10 metres high.

The article has impressive photos, by the way.

A 210-pound lead roof went on top of the Forest. The builders had to use lead instead of traditional clay, because Paris is not near any clay deposits.

Therefore, it is not surprising that samples of the oak are being investigated.

I will come back to the oak and an architect’s interviews later in the post.

What was and wasn’t happening

The following Twitter thread clarifies various aspects of the fire, including the identity of the man walking around one of the towers early on.

By Wednesday of Holy Week — April 17, 2019 — some questions were answered:

These two relate to the mystery man in the tower:

Now on with the rest of the thread:

This is the final tweet:

Former French chief architect speaks

On Tuesday, April 16, Benjamin Mouton, Chief Architect of Historic Monuments in France from 2000 through 2013, gave an interview to one of France’s news channels, LCI (La Chaîne d’Info):

Benjamin Mouton has spent his entire career working on France’s historic monuments, including their restoration. He has also been awarded some of France’s highest accolades including Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honor, Officer in the National Order of Merit and Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters.

NewsWars has this important soundbite, translated, from the video:

“So, you’re telling us that this type of timber doesn’t burn like that?” Mouton was asked by an LCI host.

Oak that is 800-years-old is very hard – try to burn it,” Mouton said. “Old oak, it is not easy at all. You would need a lot of kindling to succeed… It stupefies me.”

Batiactu, a website that reports building trade news, was also able to interview Mouton that day. Excerpts follow (translated):

As Chief Architect of Historic Monuments, Benjamin Mouton was in charge of Notre-Dame Cathedral from 2000 to 2013, for which he led the heavy fire detection project. He has not yet been able to go inside the building, but already fears the impact of the fire and the collapse of the frames on the overall stability of the building.

Mouton repeated the words of his successor Philippe Villeneuve, with whom he stays in contact:

Benjamin Mouton affirms to Batiactu that he was “totally incredulous” in the face of this fire that could have spread from the renovation site, and that suspicions could be focused on the “valley”, where the nave and the transept of the cathedral meet.

He explained that:

the melted scaffolding will not be doing the vaults any good, as this creates a significant mechanical shock

He said that the stones that made up the vaults were turned to ash. They were the most important part of the building:

The stones are going to turn into lime, and the water fired by the firefighters creates a second heat shock.

As for the fire detection and prevention systems in place:

The fire protection set up in the cathedral was at its highest level.

When I took care of the fire detection, which was very expensive, it took only a few minutes for a fire officer to resolve any doubt. We had many wooden doors replaced by fire doors [and] we limited all electrical appliances, which were forbidden in the attic.

He also told Batiactu:

In my 40 years of experience, I have never known a fire of this sort.

He also pointed out the slow burn of oak:

The fire could not start from a short circuit, from a simple incident. It takes a real heat load at the start to launch such a disaster. Oak is a particularly hard wood.

Different types of wood have different burning temperatures

On Thursday, April 25, RMC’s Les Grandes Gueules had a segment on their news and talk programme about the fire.

I was quite cross to hear that they thought a smouldering cigarette butt could have started the fire!

I have a plank of seasoned oak that I almost posted to them with a letter asking them to leave a lit cigarette on it to see if it would burn the wood. While there might be a burn mark left, the oak is highly unlikely to ignite!

South Yorkshire Firewood has a page on different types of wood and how they burn. The reason Benjamin Mouton brought up the maturity of the oak was that thick, 800-year-old oak planks would not burn very quickly at all.

South Yorkshire Firewood deals in firelogs. The company rightly points out that logs need to be ‘seasoned’ before burning. Afterwards, one generally wants a slow yet steady burn in the fireplace. Therefore, one needs kindling and one needs good wood. They explain:

Hardwoods are generally more dense than softwood and therefore burn for longer and produce more heat …

Despite providing a more efficient fuel source, hardwood can be difficult to ignite from cold. Softwood kindling is therefore best used to get a fire started, the resinous and fibrous nature of softwood helping it to burn from cold. Once a fire is established and there is some heat in the base of the fire, it should be fuelled with hardwood to maintain a slow burning fire with a good heat output.

Softwood can produce a very pleasing flame to look at but it will burn very quickly and you will get through a large volume of wood in a very short time.

As for oak:

The density of the wood also affects how long it needs to be seasoned for. Oak is a very dense wood and can take up to 2 years to season fully.

One of the best firewoods but needs a long seasoning period due to its density. Burns slowly and is long lasting. On smaller stoves it is best burnt in smaller pieces than other woods.

Now, I am not for one moment suggesting that someone put lit kindling on the cathedral’s oak beams, but if anyone thinks a lit cigarette caused this fire, they need to read up more on oak, particularly old oak!

Although Benjamin Mouton was not in a position to say so, there’s something mighty suspicious about this fire.

Tomorrow, I will report on what rebuilding Notre-Dame might mean and what such a reconstruction would entail.

May 6, 2019 marks the Channel Tunnel’s Silver Anniversary:

Eurotunnel operates the Channel Tunnel, which transports Eurostar as well as Le Shuttle trains.

The original three destinations for Eurostar from the UK were Paris, Lille and Brussels.

Eurostar trains originally left and arrived from Waterloo Station. Now they leave from London St Pancras, which is next to Kings Cross Station:

Destinations have expanded to Lyon, Marseille and Amsterdam.

I remember at the time that The Economist, among other publications, was most sceptical about the viability of Eurotunnel traffic and financing.

Yet, over the years, more Eurostar and Le Shuttle (for road vehicles) trains travel to and from the Continent than 25 years ago.

What follows is a brief glimpse of Channel Tunnel rail history.

The concept of a Channel Tunnel dates back to 1802:

From Le Figaro‘s 1994 archives: the dual grand opening ceremonies. Danielle Mitterand, the president’s wife, is on the left:

Here is an original advert for Eurostar:

Here is the original Pierre Balmain tie from the men’s Eurostar uniform:

The trains remain the same:

On the big day, the Queen and the French president posed for a photo op on board a Le Shuttle train in the royal Rolls:

I remember the day well. After all the years of negativity about the project, opening day was one of celebration and optimism, at least in our household.

My better half and I went to Paris on a short break with friends the following year, travelling in business class on Eurostar. It was relaxing and scenic. The food was good, too.

We made several business trips on Eurostar afterwards. Although it is more expensive than flying, it is more convenient in many ways. Arriving in the centre of a city is much nicer than worrying about transport to and from the point of departure.

This is a huge day for European transport:

Brexit or not, long may Eurotunnel and its services continue.

The fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral had barely started when speculation about its origin began appearing on the Internet.

The inferno shocked nearly everyone — believer and unbeliever alike — with its ever-increasing intensity and unrelenting fury.

The cause is still being investigated, but will we ever be told the truth?

This is what else people said in the aftermath of the blaze.

Extremists — and secularists — cheered

The Friday before the fire, a ‘jihadist’ woman was sentenced to eight years in prison. She had been involved in an unsuccessful plot in 2016 to blow up Notre-Dame. Some commenting online thought the fire was an act of revenge for her sentencing.

On April 12, The Journal in Ireland reported:

ONE OF THREE women allegedly involved in a foiled plot in 2016 to blow up a car packed with gas canisters near the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris was today sentenced to eight years in prison by a French court for earlier offences.

Ines Madani, 22, was sentenced following a three-day trial during which she was accused of encouraging would-be jihadists to go to Syria and participate in attacks against France between March 2015 and June 2016.

She used Telegram – an encrypted messaging app widely used by jihadists to communicate.

On Tuesday, April 16, 2019, the day after the fire, the Express reported that an extremist group, Al-Muntasir, said the fire was ‘retribution’ and that it was time to say goodbye to the ‘polytheistic oratory’ of Notre-Dame. They created a poster to that effect, which appeared online (photos in the article).

That day, The Sun had an article discussing both the foiled plot from 2016 as well as the ‘polytheistic oratory’ poster.

Some — including secularists — rejoiced online as the cathedral burned:

Paul Joseph Watson has more on those reactions and how left-wing media tried to debunk them:

It was surprising that they had focussed on Notre-Dame rather than the equally significant mosque in Jerusalem that was on fire at the same time. The Star reported:

THE AL-AQSA Mosque, the third-holiest site in the world for Muslims, was ablaze at the same time as an inferno gripped the Notre Dame cathedral.

The fire, in Jerusalem’s old town, broke out on the same tragic night one of Europe’s most famous Christian sites also burned in France.

Footage of the incident shows smoke filling the street as bright flame flicker and people cry out in surprise …

Fortunately, the Mosque fire did not cause major damage to the iconic structure, but it did endanger a part that is over 2,000 years old.

Initial reports suggested the incident was caused by an electrical fault but others claim playing children could be responsible.

The blaze was contained to Marwani Prayer Room, also known as Solomon’s Stables, and did not spread, the Wafa news agency reports …

Muslims believe that Muhammad was transported from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to al-Aqsa.

The new editor of Human Events was unhappy with those who downplayed the fire. He criticised a freshman congresswoman from Minnesota:

This was a curious reaction along the same lines from an Italian woman:

Globalist agenda

President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe appeared twice at Notre-Dame. The first was early in the evening. They returned later, when Macron gave a second address to the nation.

There was a strange sequence of events around the time the fire started.

Recall that the main news stories said there were no workers onsite at that time.

Yet, a Spanish-language channel captured someone walking around one of the towers:

There was also a strange spark that went off from the roof. (See an explanation further down.) A man was also walking around the roof at the same time (see first tweet for the video). Then, Macron and Philippe arrived — smirking:

The text to Gerard’s tweet says:

So the media outlets everywhere suddenly went silent at 17:50, [followed by] a song from Jonny [Halliday], light the fire; what coincidences all of these are. Arrival of Macron, [Christophe] Castaner [Minister of the Interior], Edouard Philippe and another in grand pomp, a smile on their lips?

Yet, this was Macron’s tweet about the fire:

Then there was the evening Mass which had to be evacuated? Very strange, because media reports did not mention a Mass. Note the time stamps. This would have been after the politicians’ arrival:

And let’s not forget this tweet which appeared soon after the blaze began:

A Jesuit friend in Paris who works in told me cathedral staff said the fire was intentionally set.

Then, there is this report from Australia (start at 1:46 in) which raises a question over the fire alarms that went off:

No doubt this is just a coincidence, but who happened to be in Paris that day? Michelle Obama. She was promoting her book, Becoming.

There are those — myself excluded — who think this event was planned and that evil globalists planned for her to be able to see it first hand:

She was having a lovely time aboard a cruise boat on the Seine when someone alerted her to the blaze. Not surprisingly, her expression suddenly changed. The Daily Mail has a series of photos. (Mogaznews has photos of her two days later at the book launch.)

But, not to worry:

The dinner, prepared by famous French-born chef Alain Ducasse, went ahead as planned.

To be fair:

Mrs Obama, who was in Paris for her Becoming book tour, later took to social media to say her ‘heart aches with the people of France’.

She shared an old photo on Instagram of herself, her husband Barack and their two daughters lighting candles in the cathedral. 

Those who buy into the globalist agenda angle were further spurred on by recent tweets from James Comey:

This one mentioned questions:

This one, with ‘answers’, appeared on Holy Thursday:

Someone responded with the following, which included a reference to the woman in Colorado who committed suicide instead of going through with a second Columbine shooting:

On April 16, the National Post reported that the roofbeams at Notre-Dame are known as The Forest (photo at link). Emphases mine:

the roof, made up of centuries old oak trees, fuelled the flames that ravaged a piece of France’s history.

Among the biggest challenges facing the reconstruction of the iconic church is rebuilding the intricate latticework of wooden beams that made up the roof’s frame, known as the “Forest.”

The 800-year-old oak beams were added to the cathedral in 1220. Because of the building’s gothic style which called for high vaulted ceilings, tall, sturdy oaks were sourced from nearby forests.

Each beam that held up the lead roof was constructed from a single tree, requiring about 13,000 individual trees in total, CNN reported.

Was Comey saying something significant or just trolling? Whatever the case, I am not sure the first two are related to Notre-Dame. The third one might have been a pictorial commentary on rebuilding. Or maybe it was about Easter being a time of rebirth.

Moving on …

Spark on the roof

Timeline finished, we can now move on to the spark from the roof.

Libération has an explanation, which it admits is not definitive. Libé says the spark could well be a ‘reflection’ (‘reflet‘), but that is not a ‘formal’ conclusion. The article also has the relevant photos.

Their article says that the images circulating online, such as in the tweet above, came from a site called Viewsurf, which shows shots from videocams in cities around France. Viewsurf says that it has retained the images, which it can give to the authorities.

Here is another version of the video:

CheckNews is the French version of FactCheck. Although the images from the afternoon of April 15 are no longer on Viewsurf, the article says (translation mine):

CheckNews was able to access those filmed at 14:05, 15:05, 16:05, 17:05, 18:05 and 19:05 on the day of the fire. The one from 17:05 is also available on Archive.org.

We can effectively state that a silhouette was on the cathedral roof at 17:05. But that was equally the case for all the extracts from 14:17 onward that CheckNews viewed, where one can see several people within the perimeter of the spire. By contrast, no one is visible in the shot from 18:05. And at 19:05, one can no longer see anything except for flames and a lot of smoke.

CheckNews contacted the crisis manager from the scaffolding company, Europe Echafaudage, who:

indicated that 12 workers were working that day erecting scaffolding at Notre-Dame and that ‘the last worker left the site after the electricity was turned off at 17:50. They left the roof around 17:20.’ In all likelihood, the silhouettes observed in the videos (including that of 17:05 but moreso in that of 18:05) are therefore workers employed by Europe Echafaudage.

Concerning the little light observed in the video of 17:05, CheckNews could also see others on the videos from the day (notably at 15:05 or 16:05). These lights seem to be similar to reflections, even if we cannot be formal on that point.

Arson

It’s difficult for adults with synapses rubbing together to rule out arson.

This Twitter user has military and law enforcement experience (click on image to see it in full):

Accelerant

He also posted this (see second tweet):

DEW — Directed Energy Weapon

Some thought that a DEW — Directed Energy Weapon — might have been used to achieve the unimaginable inferno:

There was blue flash, captured on video:

‘Computer glitch’, says Notre-Dame’s rector

On Good Friday, April 19, the New York Post reported that Notre-Dame’s rector thought a ‘computer glitch’ was to blame:

PARIS — A “computer glitch” may have been behind the fast-spreading fire that ravaged Notre Dame, the cathedral’s rector said Friday, as architects and construction workers tried to figure out how to stabilize the damaged structure and protect it from the elements …

Speaking during a meeting of local business owners, rector Patrick Chauvet did not elaborate on the exact nature of the glitch, adding that “we may find out what happened in two or three months.”

On Thursday, Paris police investigators said they think an electrical short-circuit most likely caused the fire.

The Parisien newspaper has reported that investigators are considering whether the fire could be linked to a computer glitch or related to temporary elevators used in the renovation that was underway at the time the cathedral caught fire. Chauvet said there were fire alarms throughout the building, which he described as “well protected.”

Speedy announcement fooled no one

Although the investigation is still going on, the official word on April 16 was that the fire was accidental.

Such a speedy announcement was ill-advised, because few believe it.

John Cardillo works for Newsmax:

Cardillo also posted another short thread:

Interestingly, a fire occurred at Paris’s magnificent church of Saint-Sulpice in March. The Paris fire brigade deemed the cause to be arson.

From the Washington Post:

Although there was no evidence of a connection, France has seen a number of attacks on Catholic churches in the past year, including arson and vandalism

Paris’s Church of St. Sulpice was set on fire after midday Mass last month. No one was injured. Police are investigating, but firefighters attributed the blaze to arson.

Saint-Sulpice’s fire was at the entrance and, whilst serious, was minimal compared with Notre-Dame’s.

It seems the authorities believe Notre-Dame means too much to people for them to know the truth. Whilst the cathedral DOES mean a lot to most of us, we can handle the truth.

There is a problem with hiding the truth. As happened with JFK’s assassination and 9/11, people will devise their own truth, whatever that might be.

Many believe that those in power want the cathedral reconstructed to better fit the 21st century:

They are not all conservatives like James Woods — or conspiracy theorists — either. Rolling Stone compiled the earliest ruminations on the matter the following day:

… 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 citythe 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.

The discussion about rebuilding has begun.

I hope to have more next week on what ‘rebuilding’ might actually mean.

Before that, however, I will feature a post on oak and the Notre-Dame blaze.

The inferno of Notre-Dame Cathedral on Monday, April 15, 2019, overshadowed Holy Week services in Paris.

The following day, the Archbishop of Reims in Champagne country issued a statement on the fire:

He called Notre-Dame:

a symbol of the efforts for peace, beauty, hope and faith — even well beyond the Christian faith.

He deplored the loss of a house of worship for the many Parisians and visitors, particularly during the holiest week of the Christian year, beginning with the Chrism Mass on Wednesday and culminating in Easter Sunday.

Chrism Mass

The Chrism Mass, the first major Mass after Palm Sunday, is the one where the oils used in anointing the baptised, confirmands, ordinands as well as the sick and dying are blessed for use during the following year.

Notre-Dame’s Chrism Mass was held at Saint-Sulpice. The Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit officiated.

KTOTV, a French-language Catholic channel, said that the alternative arrangements had been made as the fire raged on Monday evening. Saint-Sulpice’s pastor, the Revd Jean-Loup Lecroix, said that church staff and clergy had worked hard to make sure all preparations were in place:

The church was full:

The archbishop gave a moving and powerful homily:

He also called on Our Lady to pray for everyone:

The following observation of his, which I mentioned yesterday, resonated the most. This was the opening to his homily:

What is the difference between a lump of stone and a cathedral? The same difference between a lump of cells and a human being.

Both have a sacred dimension.

The archbishop also spoke of chrism — the blessed oil — in terms of the cathedral. Unction refers to the anointing with that oil. The Sacrament of the Sick and Dying was referred to for centuries as Extreme Unction.

From the full homily transcript (in French):

The other thing that unites the cathedral with a human being is the unction that both can receive to show a transcendence, a divine presence that confers a sacred characteristic upon them.

He referred to the cathedral as the house of God — an expression I have not heard in years, but I learned as a small child. This passage also explains the importance of the altar:

Our cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris received that unction. During its consecration, the altar received chrism. The altar is the sign of the mysterious presence of God, like that which Jacob constructed after his vision of the angels who descended from and rose to Heaven. He called that place Bethel, which means ‘house of God’. The altar, essentially, represents the presence of God. The chrismation that we do on the altar signifies the presence of Christ. This is why priests venerate it and kiss it, because it is upon it that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is performed, recalling what Christ did through His love for us on the Cross. It is this Easter journey that we celebrate at each Eucharist: the death and resurrection of Lord Jesus.

The crosses on its walls also received this sacred oil, which we are now about to consecrate. This cathedral is inhabited by a people. But it is inhabited not only by those who pray in or visit it. It is the vessel of a Presence. St Paul recalled it when he said to Christians, ‘You are the Temple of God’.

He went on to speak about rebuilding Notre-Dame and the responsibility to the Church of every Catholic who has ever received chrism:

We are going to rebuild the cathedral. The worldwide emotion, the extraordinary élan of generosity that the fire engendered, will allow us to raise it up once again. We can speak during this Easter season of certain resurrection. But we must also raise the Church back up. May all who have been baptised, who have received the unction of Christ — Priest, Prophet and King — rediscover the fervour of that beginning, receiving that extraordinary grace in becoming children of God. Those who have received this unction at Confirmation must also manifest this whole gift of the Holy Spirit, which is the same expression of God’s love. This gift must fill them with joy in order for them to build a civilisation of love.

A fitting homily for such a special Mass.

Good Friday

On Good Friday, April 19, the Notre-Dame congregation gathered for the procession of the Way of the Cross:

The archbishop presided over the procession, praying for those who ‘acted with courage: firefighters, police and politicians’.

The prayers were even more intense than usual on Good Friday:

Holy Saturday

On April 20, French sailors serving on the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, currently on mission in the Indian Ocean, sent a special message via formation in the shape of Notre-Dame Cathedral:

Paris is their mother city, so it was a particularly poignant gesture.

Easter Sunday

Easter Masses were held at Saint-Eustache in Paris. The main Mass honoured the firefighters.

Questions, questions

This fire has raised many questions. The two main ones do not yet have a final answer.

Who and/or what started the fire?

How will Notre-Dame be rebuilt?

More to come.

If you missed it, please check out my last post on Notre-Dame de Paris, which ends with this stunning tweet, quickly deleted:

A Jesuit friend in Paris who works in told me cathedral staff said the fire was intentionally set.

What follows is also a bit strange. It is the best glimpse of the flash from the cathedral before the fire started.

Note the time stamps in the tweets below. Did we know there was a Mass on the evening of Monday, April 15, 2019, that had to be evacuated?

I will come back to the mystery of this fire in another post.

Today’s entry looks at what had already been removed from the cathedral during renovations and what had been saved from the fire.

Fearless fire brigade chaplain

The Paris firefighters did an incredible and exceptional job, but special credit goes to their chaplain, the Revd Jean-Marc Fournier, who dashed into the burning structure to save the Blessed Sacrament and the gold Crown of Thorns, believed to be the one our Lord wore. The journalist who posted this tweet works for the Catholic network KTOTV, based in Paris:

Breitbart has more on Fr Fournier and the cathedral’s sacred contents. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Fournier has been in dangerous situations before:

The newspaper reports he responded with the fire brigade to the 2015 Bataclan terror attacks in Paris, where Islamist extremists killed 90 with rifles and suicide vests at a rock concert in the city, where he was “quickly on the scene after the attack… he helped remove the wounded from the hall and prayed with the bodies of the victims.”

The priest also served as a chaplain to the French army and survived an ambush in Afghanistan where ten French soldiers were killed.

Television network Sky News reports the remarks of one member of the Paris emergency services who said of the chaplain: “Father Fournier is an absolute hero.

He showed no fear at all as he made straight for the relics inside the cathedral, and made sure they were saved. He deals with life and death every day, and shows no fear.”

In the following short video, Fr Fournier describes what he calls ‘the fire of the century’, extinguished by 600 firefighters. He also praised the fire chief and his ‘extraordinary intuition’ to save as much of the structure and its contents as possible.

Fournier said that his first thought on arrival was to rescue the Blessed Sacrament and the Crown of Thorns.

He’s a good speaker, very well prepared. Francophones will appreciate this:

On Tuesday, April 16, 2019, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Paris Philippe Marsset said that if there were miracles during the previous night, then our Lord surely worked through the Paris fire brigade:

One can understand why they were the guests of honour at the Easter Mass held at Saint-Eustache for Notre-Dame’s congregation. Archbishop Aupetit praised them for their courage and their ‘human genius which renders honour to God’s love’ for mankind:

Items already removed for renovation

A number of items had already been removed and stored for safekeeping during the cathedral’s renovation:

The 16 copper statues of the apostles and evangelists that adorned the roof of Notre-Dame made headlines last week as they were removed by crane for restoration work, intended to go two at a time over the course of the coming years. They now stand on palettes in a warehouse, having been saved from the fire which the restoration work, ironically, seems to have started.

Breitbart‘s article has photos of the statues’ removal. They were around the base of the spire, which burnt and broke off the cathedral. The statues will be restored in Perigueux, in southwest France. They will be returned once the new spire is completed, thought to be in 2022.

Items saved from the fire

Fr Fournier saved the Blessed Sacrament — consecrated hosts — and the Crown of Thorns from the fire:

Among the relics saved in the effort was Notre-Dame’s most famous and revered and holy relic, the gold-encrusted Crown of Thorns, believed to be the wreath of thorns that was placed on the head of Jesus Christ at his crucifixion.

A close up of the Crown of Thorns can be seen in another Breitbart article.

Elaborate candelabra and works of art were rescued and sent to City Hall (Hôtel de Ville) for safekeeping in St John’s Hall. St Louis’s tunic is also there. Paris’s City Hall is immense, so it is likely that the items can remain there for a long period of time.

The first tweet I saw on February 16 discussed the rooster from the top of the spire, with historic relics inside, including one of the Thorns:

As this historian said that same day, every time something else was rescued, it seemed like a miracle:

The 700-year-old statue of Our Lady was rescued. The cathedral’s rector said he saw it at midnight. He was grateful and expressed his gratitude that ‘the Mother of Jesus protected’ the cathedral built in her honour:

Tweets responding to the original one below indicate it might go to the Louvre temporarily:

This footage shows that, although there is ash all over the floor, the cabinets with the votive candles are unharmed — as is the magnificent rose window in the background:

Amazingly, all of the cathedral’s resident honeybees, living among three hives, survived:

Good News Network‘s article has an aerial photo of the hives’ location and explains:

For the last six years, there have been a trio of beehives nestled on top of the cathedral’s roof. The hives were just a few honeybee colonies that were installed across the city as a means of of boosting dwindling pollinator populations in Europe.

The hives have been managed by Notre Dame beekeeper Nicolas Geant since 2013; so when the Parisian cathedral caught fire last week, he anxiously awaited news of their condition …

Once specialists were finally able to check up on the honeybees, Geant was elated to hear that they were alive and well.

“It’s a big day. I am so relieved. I saw satellite photos that showed the three hives didn’t burn,” Geant told The Associated Press. “Instead of killing them, the CO2 (from smoke) makes them drunk, puts them to sleep.”

That being said, the bees are particularly lucky because the hives reside only 100 feet under where the roof was burning. If their hives had been heated to 63 degrees Celsius (145.4 Fahrenheit), the hive wax would have melted and the bees would have perished.

“I wouldn’t call it a miracle, but I’m very, very happy,” Geant added.

Church bells tolled in solidarity

Church bells tolled in solidarity with the losses that Notre-Dame de Paris suffered in the fire.

NDTV reported that, in England, bells rang on Tuesday of Holy Week and again on Maundy Thursday:

Church bells will toll across England on Thursday in “solidarity” with France and its people as they mourn the Notre-Dame blaze, Prime Minister Theresa May said.

The bells of Westminster Abbey, the church opposite parliament where kings and queens have been crowned since 1066, will be rung on Tuesday at 1643 GMT – the time that Monday’s fire broke out, May said.

“Notre-Dame is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world – a symbol of France and the French people, and cherished across the globe,” Ms May said in a statement.

“The images of destruction we saw last night were truly heart-rending.”

Bells will then be rung across the country on Maundy Thursday, three days before Easter.

Mrs May paid tribute to:

the “swift and heroic action of the first responders, France has huge professionalism in dealing with emergencies of this kind”.

She also offered to help with restoration:

“When it comes to the task of rebuilding, French craftsmen and women are among the finest in the world,” said the British leader.

We stand ready to offer any UK experience and expertise that could be helpful in the work that lies ahead to restore this magnificent cathedral.”

On Wednesday of Holy Week, all French cathedrals rang their bells in solidarity with Notre-Dame de Paris. I would encourage those who love the Church and architecture honouring the glory of God to watch this brief video of France’s magnificent cathedrals:

Bell ringing also took place in other countries, such as Poland.

In closing this post, I would like to point out the following for the many who think the Church is people alone, without houses of worship. The Archbishop of Paris had this to say in his homily during the Chrism Mass on Wednesday of Holy Week:

What is the difference between a lump of stone and a cathedral? The same difference between a lump of cells and a human being.

Both have a sacred dimension.

AMEN!

Tomorrow’s post will look at the fire’s influence on Holy Week services in Paris.

As French investigators continue to try to determine the cause of the inferno at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday, April 15, 2019, I continue to pore over the dozens of bookmarks I have of this horrific blaze.

A friend of mine quickly alerted me to the fire, which started during the evening rush hour. Here is one news channel’s breaking coverage. The tweet says, ‘Major fire in progress … significant destruction’:

Already, some of those those commenting on the tweet said that President Macron was behind it, whilst others said it was an Islamist extremist attack. Another person blamed the gilets jaunes — yellow vests.

Here is another view:

And another:

And another:

The following image of a man on the roof appeared on Twitter early on, while it was still light. On Tuesday, the man from the scaffolding company says there were no workers present when the fire started. Also note the word ‘accidental’. But who was the man on the roof?

And who is this on one of the towers filmed by a Spanish-language news network? This appeared on Twitter soon after the fire started (my Twitter time stamp says ):

It made the rounds fairly quickly and appeared again on Tuesday. (Here’s another copy of the same video, in case the other two get deleted.)

Vernon tweeted a thread on this video, excerpted below:

This 23-minute video shows the early stages of the fire:

Macron tweeted about the nation’s collective emotion — from Catholics and all French people. He added that he felt their sadness in seeing part of their identity burn:

Paris’s mayor Anne Hidalgo ended her tweet with the city’s Latin motto of resilience which translates as ‘tossed (by the waves) but not sunk’. She said she hadn’t words strong enough to express her sorrow about the fire, which caused not just Parisians, but all French people, to cry. She added that they would find the strength to recover:

Messages poured in from all over Europe, including from Sweden’s Carl Bildt:

And Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May:

President Trump gave his advice …

… but the department of civil safety rejected it, saying that water from planes could damage the cathedral’s entire structure:

Eighty kilometres away, the mighty bells of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Chartres tolled, urging the faithful to pray for Notre-Dame in Paris:

In Paris, Christians watched and prayed for the indomitable structure that even the Nazis did not destroy:

Not surprisingly, the anti-terror brigade arrived that evening:

As darkness fell, the blaze lit up Paris — and the world. Notre-Dame’s future lay in the balance:

This was the scene from the blazing rooftop. Firefighters allowed a photojournalist to film while they worked tirelessly:

Here is an earlier view:

Here is a horrifying aerial view:

Fortunately, later on, the fire brigade chief announced that the main structure was sound enough to be rebuilt:

He also said that the two iconic towers were safe:

Macron also gave a brief address in front of the cathedral. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Paris’s mayor Anne Hidalgo were also there:

In closing, a strange tweet appeared during the early stages of the fire. It subsequently disappeared.

It says:

A Jesuit friend in Paris who works in told me cathedral staff said the fire was intentionally set.

Fortunately, someone took a screenshot of it:

Whatever we think of Jesuits, they are rarely wrong.

More tomorrow about what was saved inside and what was rescued from Notre-Dame.

The mystery continues.

Continuing this series, for those of us who have seen it, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris seems immortal, protected by divine providence.

This is what we remember:

This structure largely remained the same over the centuries. This was before the spire was added:

This photograph is nearly a century old. Note the spire:

Around ten years later, a new fire ladder — the world’s tallest at the time — was tested at Notre-Dame:

So, when tragedy struck on the Monday of Holy Week — April 15, 2019 — the world was stunned, especially Parisians returning home from work:

Later that evening, the inferno continued:

Nine hours after the blaze started, this is what was left:

The following image will become iconic. It made one magazine cover in Britain:

French journalist François Picard tweeted his thoughts before hosting a special programme on France24 about the inferno:

Catholics presented a parochial perspective:

Fair enough, however, millions of Protestants — myself included — were equally struck by my many visits to Notre-Dame and this almost untameable fire.

President Trump spoke well for the world at large in expressing what Notre-Dame means:

That said, structural issues appeared in the cathedral some years ago:

Despite that, in 2016, a new organ console was installed:

The tweet about the structural issues points to a 2017 article in Time, updated after the fire: ‘Notre Dame Cathedral Is Crumbling. Who Will Help Save It?’

Journalist Vivienne Walt, the author, sounded the alarm (emphases mine):

Notre Dame, which looms over the capital from an island in the center of the city, is a constant reminder of Paris’ history. It has seen more than its share of epic dramas, including the French Revolution and two world wars. But now there is another challenge. Some 854 years after construction began, one of Europe’s most visited sites, with about 12 million tourists a year, is in dire need of repairs. Centuries of weather have worn away at the stone. The fumes from decades of gridlock have only worsened the damage. “Pollution is the biggest culprit,” says Philippe Villeneuve, architect in chief of historic monuments in France. “We need to replace the ruined stones. We need to replace the joints with traditional materials. This is going to be extensive.”

As always, it was a question of money:

Under France’s strict secular laws, the government owns the cathedral, and the Catholic archdiocese of Paris uses it permanently for free. The priests for years believed the government should pay for repairs, since it owned the building. But under the terms of the government’s agreement, the archdiocese is responsible for Notre Dame’s upkeep, with the Ministry of Culture giving it about €2 million ($2.28 million) a year for that purpose. Staff say that money covers only basic repairs, far short of what is needed. Without a serious injection of cash, some believe, the building will not be safe for visitors in the future. Now the archdiocese is seeking help to save Notre Dame from yielding to the ravages of time.

She gives us a brief history of the cathedral:

The architects of Notre Dame knew all too well about lengthy building work; it took more than a century to build the cathedral, beginning in 1163. It was periodically vandalized over the turbulent centuries that followed. Rioting Huguenots damaged parts of the building they believed to be idolatrous in the mid–16th century. During the French Revolution, mobs of people carted off or smashed some of its paintings and statues. The hated royalty suffered the brunt of the carnage, with crowds destroying 28 statues of monarchs from the building’s Gallery of Kings. After that, Notre Dame languished in neglect.

Then, in 1831, along came Victor Hugo and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with its disfigured protagonist Quasimodo:

In it, France’s beloved writer raised alarm about the building’s decay, describing “mutilations, amputations, dislocations of the joints.” “Beside each wrinkle on the face of this old queen of our cathedrals,” he wrote, “you will find a scar.”

But for Notre Dame, Hugo’s book sparked fresh problems. The best seller inspired a restoration in 1844, which used low-quality stone and even cement, since France at the time could not produce the quantities of high-grade material that the job required.

Today, that restoration work is crumbling, as Vivienne Walt saw for herself:

Chunks of limestone lay on the ground, having fallen from the upper part of the chevet, or the eastern end of the Gothic church. One small piece had a clean slice down one side, showing how recently it had fallen. Two sections of a wall were missing, propped up with wood. And the features of Notre Dame’s famous gargoyles looked as worn away as the face of Voldemort. “They are like ice cream in the sun, melting,” says Michel Picaud, head of the nonprofit Friends of Notre Dame de Paris, looking up at them.

Whilst the mediaeval structure of the main part of the cathedral is sound, Andrew Tallon, an expert on Gothic architecture at Vassar College, told Walt:

The flying buttresses, if they are not in place, the choir could come down,” he says. “The more you wait, the more you need to take down and replace.”

Walt explains no one knew about this until a few years ago. Until then, the French government put large parts of the cathedral off limits. These areas were locked off. The government eventually allowed a total of 200 old keys to be standardised, which allowed Notre Dame caretakers to access previously blocked off spaces. André Finot, a spokesman for Notre Dame, told Walt:

We were shocked when we got up there.

The government purchased new bells in 2012 for Notre-Dame’s 850th anniversary. In 2017, the cathedral received an extra €6 million ($6.84 million) for restoration of the 19th century spire. Water damage to the spire could adversely affect the ancient oak roof, which has been there for over eight centuries.

When Walt wrote her article in 2017, the government was not terribly interested:

To the government, the cathedral is just one of many old buildings in need of care. “France has thousands of monuments,” says the official, who was not authorized to speak to the media. Among them, Notre Dame is not necessarily the most pressing case. “It will not fall down,” she says.

Notre-Dame staff were less relaxed about the state of the building:

there is plenty of alarm in the church. Finally accepting that the government would not pay to restore the cathedral, the archdiocese launched Friends of Notre Dame in October to appeal for help. It hopes to raise €100 million ($114 million) in the next five to 10 years. “There is no part of the building untouched by the irreparable loss of sculptural and decorative elements, let alone the alarming deterioration of structural elements,” the organization says on its website. The cathedral, it says, “is in desperate need of attention.”

Ironically, given the fire:

By the time serious renovation work begins–perhaps sometime before the end of this decade–the damage could be worse than it is today.

Indeed. Little did anyone know what would happen at the beginning of Holy Week 2019.

Fortunately, huge donations amounting to €500m arrived swiftly. The Arnault family donated while the inferno raged:

On the morning of April 16:

Pardon the repeat photos, but the accompanying comments are moving:

What a bittersweet memory of Holy Week 2019.

I will have more on Notre-Dame next week.

How sad for Christians who planned a trip to Paris with Easter Mass at Notre-Dame Cathedral as the high point:

Fox News reported:

Crowds lined the embankments across from the cathedral Saturday, taking photos or just staring in shock. The fire collapsed the spire and destroyed the roof of the 12th century monument, and Easter services normally held in Notre Dame are being conducted elsewhere.

Visitor Susan Harlow of Kansas City, Missouri, said: “We didn’t get here in time to see it. And now we probably never will,” given the many years it’s expected to take to repair.

I wonder if anyone there with children heard an Easter explanation like the following. I hope not, but this is, sadly, representative of modern Britain. This comment is from the British site PoliticalBetting.com (emphases mine):

Off-topic:

Over Easter I took my son to Ely Cathedral. Whilst there we talked about Easter, and he said: “It’s where Jesus dies to give children chocolate.”

Which he then extended into a dissertation on the nature of Jesus’ relationship with the Easter Bunny.

I must admit that if he formed that into a religion, I’d probably be a follower… :)

Those who normally worship at Notre-Dame were invited to Saint-Eustache Church on the Right Bank for Easter Mass.

Reuters has a splendid photo of Saint-Eustache and reported:

The archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, began the service by drawing a parallel between the planned reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, celebrated every year by Christians at Easter.

“We will rise up again and our cathedral will rise up again,” he told the congregation, which included the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and the head of the Paris fire service, General Jean-Claude Gallet.

The Independent had more:

Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit handed over a bible that had been rescued from Notre Dame to the firefighters, who held a place of honour at Sunday’s service.

Aupetit thanked city officials for their support amid “the drama” of last Monday’s fire, and “especially you, those for whom this Mass is dedicated” — the firefighters who struggled for nine hours to contain flames that consumed Notre Dame’s roof and collapsed its spire.

He notably thanked fire service chaplain Jean-Marc Fournier, who saved the most precious thing for Catholics from the fire, the chalice containing consecrated hosts that for Catholics are the body of Christ.

I will have more on Fr Fournier in another post. He truly was on the front line.

The New York Post‘s story on this Easter Mass at Saint-Eustache said that many dignitaries attended not only from France but also other countries.

Let us now consider why Notre-Dame’s bursting into flames for nine hours was so devastating.

It was more than ‘a church’, and no, the faithful will not despair, even though the cathedral is unarguably one of the hallmarks of Western civilisation:

The Spectator‘s Tom Holland assesses Western civilisation correctly in light of the great achievements from the Middle Ages. Our civilisation is a Christian one:

Another Briton, the controversial Milo Yiannopoulos, who is Catholic and Jewish via parentage, wrote a considered article for FrontPage Mag,
‘The Notre Dame Fire: Our Fault, Our Most Grievous Fault’, published on Good Friday, April 19, 2019.

Excerpts follow:

Buildings like Notre Dame do not erupt into flames spontaneously. That’s not how God works, even to punish a civilization as deep in moral ruin as ours. My suspicions, and those of almost everyone I know, are hardly calmed when we see Fox News—yes, even Fox—repeatedly refusing to host an honest discussion of the possibility, even as experts tell French TV that eight hundred year old timber simply doesn’t burn that way without an accelerant. I mean, it’s not as though news networks restrain their hosts from wild speculation during other crises …

Anyway, as of now, no solid evidence has emerged, and our media refuses to discuss the context in which this fire occurred

We can say, however, that the loss of Notre Dame is an especially Christian tragedy. It is a tragedy emblematic of the rapid destruction of Western civilization in the past few decades, a visual reminder of the inferno that has already gutted the Academy. It’s a wonder they didn’t finish off some of these churches first, though of course the cultural warriors of the Left can only squeal in excitement at the sort of brazen defacement they would never be brave enough to commit themselves …

That’s not to say that only Christians are mourning. Notre Dame wasn’t just the spiritual heart of Paris but remains its literal geographic center—the place from which distances are measured. As a cathedral school, it was the center of medieval intellectual life. Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas both taught there. Whatever the later horrors of French postmodernism and poststructuralism, the University of Paris once had a reasonable claim to be the locus of the Western intellectual tradition, leading the world in the study of Aristotle, scholastic theology and reason applied to the mysteries of faith.

Notre Dame is considered the ultimate example of High Gothic style, a popular form for churches because it symbolizes the body of Christ. It is significant and—again, to let my suspicions run amuck—surely no coincidence that this happened during Holy Week, since hope for the resurrection is at the heart of Gothic design. But Notre Dame transcended its role as a place of Catholic worship. As the recently departed Fr. James Schall once remarked about the great cathedrals of Europe, “Each of these extraordinary structures, built somehow in a way I do not wholly understand by ages far poorer than our own, incited me strangely in the thoroughly unexpected way that something which need not exist at all surprises and awakens us when, contrary to our private illusions and expectations, we suddenly discover that it exists and that it is lovely.”

He went on: The shock and glory of unexpectedly finding such buildings touches almost the peak of human experience. The very foundations of our existence, then, are grounded in this startling realization that we do not already grasp all of reality, especially things of such exalted beauty. We cannot but be humbled by the immediate revelation of how much we have missed. And yet we are glad that, so humbled, we can now inherit what the Earth has borne to us. For we stand to all reality as we do to Durham and to Freiburg and to Litchfield [cathedrals] when we behold them for the first time, when we are given something by the ages that we could not create or even imagine by ourselves.”

For lovers of architecture, the cathedral’s North Rose window is one of the three great surviving roses from the thirteenth century. The rose has Mary at its center. As God shone through Mary, taking on the color of her human nature, so does the sunlight take on the color of the glass. As St. Bernard of Clairvaux put it in the twelfth century, “As a pure ray enters a glass window and emerges unspoiled, but has acquired the color of the glass… the Son of God who entered the most chaste womb of the Virgin, emerged pure, but took on the color of the Virgin, that is, the nature of a man and a comeliness of human form, and he clothed himself in it.”

… Mary—the “Our Lady” of Notre Dame—is proof of the Incarnation. It is her body through which God becomes incarnate and it is she through whom the Word became incarnate and who is taken as a patron by educators. Notre Dame was built to support this understanding, a belief unique to Christianity.

I sense in much of the European coverage of the past week a kind of guilt. France, perhaps more than any other country, deserved some sort of retribution from God, and I think Parisians know it. France doesn’t even record its citizens’ religious beliefs in its national census. No one has any idea what percentage of French people are Christian, though we can be sure the percentage is going down as the number of Muslims goes up. Since the Enlightenment, France has done more than any other country to wipe out Christianity. And it started early. As long ago as 1767, Voltaire described the Christian religion as “sans contredit la plus ridicule, la plus absurde, et la plus sanguinaire qui ait jamais infecté le monde.” (“Without question the most ridiculous, absurd and bloody ever to have infected the world.”)

In the West, we have lost our appreciation of Christianity as a source of reason, hope and joy, and we embrace characterizations of the faith as weak, ridiculous, superstitious and faintly sick—impressions not helped by the current state of the Catholic church hierarchy. The loss is not total, just as many of Notre Dame’s most precious relics and treasures appear to have been saved. But the trajectory is clear.

As for Notre-Dame’s restoration:

It is characteristic of Western civilization to rise again, as even Left-wing medievalists who can’t bring themselves to acknowledge Christianity have to admit. But can we possibly restore what has been lost even if we try? The West has lost its soul, and with that soul, its craft. As we lost our understanding of God as maker, we lost our respect for making things ourselves. We therefore no longer possess either the will or the means to build something like Notre Dame, less still the technical ability to dare attempt a repair. We have forgotten how, and part of me says the Cathedral should be left to stand precisely as it is now to remind us of the fact, unfinished and unrepaired until we rediscover the purpose for which it was constructed in the first place. We don’t have the right to crassly imitate the original.

Hilaire Belloc could say, approvingly and as recently as the twentieth century, that Europe “repairs and finishes.” Could he have said that today? Would he, after hearing Emmanuel Macron’s chilling pledge that Notre Dame will be rebuilt “more beautiful than before”? In 1905, churches in France were declared the property of the state, which raises horrifying prospects for Notre Dame’s reconstruction. Will Macron suggest a “multi-faith prayer space” in order to be “truly inclusive” of France’s “multicultural society”? Don’t bet against it, folks. Already the calls are going out from elitist architects—in Rolling Stone, natch—that the rebuilding should not reflect “white European France.”

Of this nine-hour blaze that defies description, Milo says:

It was alive, and, mesmerized by it, we got a glimpse of our end, of what we have allowed to happen to our greatest institutions, of the defacement done to our curricula and the petty vandalism we allow every day to be performed upon our laws, our customs and our social mores by people who loathe everything about us. And in that acrid smoke lurked a question that haunts me today: Did we deserve this?

Quite possibly, Milo.

This image goes quite well with his article:

Many visitors tweeted their favourite memories of Notre-Dame, whether a rose window …

… or the magnificent vaults …

… or Mass:

This is what the world — not just the West — lost:

Be that as it may, we must keep our sights on higher things:

The frustration is seeing the enemy causing so much destruction and deception among men, but the Lord reminds us to keep our minds on things above. We have eternal life and God’s Kingdom to look forward to.

My prayers go to those who are investigating the blaze and to those who are working towards Notre-Dame’s eventual restoration.

I will have more on this topic tomorrow.

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