The burning of Notre Dame cathedral

Hat tip to Gavin Ashenden.

Notre Dame Cathedral took centuries to build.  One student estimated that it took more than 20 percent of the surrounding area’s resources for 150 years. Could we today commit to something that magnificent that would take even decades?  Yves Smith on her Naked Capitalism blog wrote—

Even if Notre Dame can be restored, the project is likely to take more than a generation, meaning even in best-case scenario, many people will never be able to see it properly again in their lives.  [snip]

The great medieval cathedrals, through their enormous scale and soaring vaults, with their narrow stained glass windows that help pull the eye upward, tell worshipers and later visitors of how small they are compared to God and his works. Yet their seeming solidity and scale also suggests the faithful can find refuge.

All of our technological prowess hasn’t found a way to create spaces that inspire the same sort of awe of these centuries-old houses of worship.

Modern visitors were further humbled by the audaciousness of its accomplishment: a project executed across generations, reaching heights that seem daunting even now, marshaling the skills and hard work of many artisans and laborers.

In other words, Notre Dame provided comfort and hope against that gnawing knowledge in the back of our heads of the certainty of death and the impermanence of human action.  Even though all those who built Notre Dame were long dead, something of them lived on through the cathedral….or did at least till yesterday.

Rod Dreher of The American Conservative recalled the beginning of Kenneth Clark’s famous TV series on Western civilization—

Standing in front of the Notre Dame cathedral, Clark asks, “What is civilization?”  He says he can’t define it in abstract terms, “but I think I can recognize it when I see it.”  He then turns to the cathedral, and says, “I’m looking at it right now.”

Photo from Toronto Globe and Mail

Photo from Toronto Globe and Mail


Notre Dame fire photos.  Agency France-Presse.

The priceless beauty of Notre Dame Cathedral.  Toronto Globe and Mail photo gallery.

Mourning Notre Dame by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.

Notre Dame Fire: a Sign for Our Times by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

On the Universalism of Notre Dame, from Muslim Arches to the Goddess of Reason by Juan Cole for Informed Comment [Added 4/17/2019]  Hat tip to Bill Harvey.

You can freeze the above image and rotate it with your mouse.  [Added 4/17/2019]

The Cathedral as Cube by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.  [Added 4/18/2019]

The Meaning of Notre Dame in a Humanist Age by Grayson Quay for The American Conservative.  [Added 4/19/2019]

An 800-year history of Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral by Jose Luís Carrel Fuentes for National Geographic.  [Added 4/26/2019]

Notre Dame’s history is nine centuries of change, renovation and renewal by Marie Hutterer for The Conversation.  [Added 4/26/2019]

The Profound Lesson of the Notre Dame Cathedral Fire by Ulrich Fichter for Der Spiegel.  [Added 5/1/2019]

Building a Cathedral by Nicolas Kemper for The Prepared [Added 5/1/2019]

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3 Responses to “The burning of Notre Dame cathedral”

  1. fredheiser Says:

    Our cathedral is space exploration. It is our pyramid and our hanging garden. Dedicating significant resources to something greater than ourselves over many many years and with no immediate payback is a hallmark of being civilized.


    • philebersole Says:

      It would be interesting to see if we Americans can sustain our commitment to this project as long as the medieval Europeans committing to building their great cathedrals.


      • Fred (Au Naturel) Says:

        Unlikely. We’ve already spooled up and the dropped it twice. Maybe third time is a charm?

        This is absolutely a golden age for space exploration. We are within a couple of decades of truly starting to colonize the solar system. If we don’t get bored and quit.


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