According to news reports, already over US$ 1 billion has been pledged towards rebuilding Notre Dame:
BTW: after the fire, a video tour:
In today’s ever so polarised age [currently awaiting the infamous redacted Mueller Report on a two-year investigation into US President Trump], it is unsurprising that we see for example in Rolling Stone:
. . . 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.
Despite politicians on both sides of the French political spectrum discouraging people from trying to politicize the Notre Dame fire, it would be a mistake to view the building as little more than a Paris tourist attraction, says John Harwood, an architectural historian and associate professor at the University of Toronto. “It’s literally a political monument. All cathedrals are,” he says. For centuries, the cathedral was the seat of the bishop of the Catholic Church at a time when there was virtually no distinction between church and state. “It was the center and seat of political power not just in Paris, but in France,” he says. “And that remained the case even after the French Revolution and through successive revolutions and political power and regimes.”
How Should France Rebuild Notre Dame?
Much of the structure survived the blaze — but as rebuilding efforts move forward, the country will be left with a big question: What does the cathedral mean to 21st-century France?, by by E J Dickson
As though, there are any human institutions that are other than deeply flawed, and as though there is not a deep resentment of the historic fact that our Civilisation is the product of the synthesis of the heritage of Jerusalem, Athens and Rome, pioneered by Gamaliel’s student, Paul of Tarsus as main C1 Christian Missionary to the gentile peoples. Of course with onward major infusion from the Germans (including the Angles, Jutes and Saxons who invaded post-Roman Britain and the Franks who went to Gaul etc) and then addition of a cosmopolitan flavour.
We have got too used to the notion — fallacy, rather — that one tells the truth and the right by the clock. Pardon, but the clock and calendar can only tell the time, truth comes from what is sound, and it is what is right that makes the right, pointing to a moral foundaiton to the world. Likewise, though we find in history and even today’s headlines, great evils and errors, we also find great reformers, enduring principles, reformations and monuments that reflect and even help to shape such reformation.
Which is where perhaps the last great western statesman to be shaped by the spirit of history speaks to us. The captioned remarks were made to open a debate on rebuilding the House of Commons after it had been destroyed by German bombs (and that is itself a reminder that the perpetual clamour for “year zero” restarts and radical changes itself can go tragically wrong).
Let us listen again to the voice of a man steeped in history and tradition, the last of the British Lions:
HC Deb 28 October 1943 vol 393 cc403-73
403 § The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
I beg to move, That a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report upon plans for the rebuilding of the House of Commons and upon such alterations as may be considered desirable while preserving all its essential features. On the night of 10th May, 1941, with one of the last bombs of the last serious raid, our House of Commons was destroyed by the violence of the enemy, and we have now to consider whether we should build it up again, and how, and when. We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us. Having dwelt and served for more than 40 years in the late Chamber, and having derived fiery great pleasure and advantage therefrom, I, naturally, would like to see it restored in all essentials to its old form, convenience and dignity. I believe that will be the opinion of the great majority of its Members. It is certainly the opinion of His Majesty’s Government and we propose to support this resolution to the best of our ability.
There are two main characteristics of the House of Commons which will command the approval and the support of reflective and experienced Members. They will, I have no doubt, sound odd to foreign ears. The first is that its shape should be oblong and not semi-circular. Here is a very potent factor in our political life. The semi-circular assembly, which appeals to political theorists, enables every individual or every group to move round the centre, adopting various shades of pink according as the weather changes. I am a convinced supporter of the party system in preference to the group system. I have sewn many earnest and ardent Parliaments destroyed by the group system. The party system is much favoured by the oblong form of Chamber. It is easy for an individual to move through those insensible gradations from Left to Right but the act of crossing the Floor is one 404 which requires serious consideration. I am well informed on this matter, for I have accomplished that difficult process, not only once but twice. Logic is a poor guide compared with custom. Logic which has created in so many countries semi-circular assemblies which have buildings which give to every Member, not only a seat to sit in but often a desk to write at, with a lid to bang, has proved fatal to Parliamentary Government as we know it here in its home and in the land of its birth.
The second characteristic of a Chamber formed on the lines of the House of Commons is that it should not be big enough to contain all its Members at once without over-crowding and that there should be no question of every Member having a separate seat reserved for him. The reason for this has long been a puzzle to uninstructed outsiders and has frequently excited the curiosity and even the criticism of new Members. Yet it is not so difficult to understand if you look at it from a practical point of view. If the House is big enough to contain all its Members, nine-tenths of its Debates will be conducted in the depressing atmosphere of an almost empty or half-empty Chamber. The essence of good House of Commons speaking is the conversational style, the facility for quick, informal interruptions and interchanges. Harangues from a rostrum would be a bad substitute for the conversational style in which so much of our business is done. But the conversational style requires a fairly small space, and there should be on great occasions a sense of crowd and urgency. There should be a sense of the importance of much that is said and a sense that great matters are being decided, there and then, by the House.
We attach immense importance to the survival of Parliamentary democracy. In this country this is one of our war aims. We wish to see our Parliament a strong, easy, flexible instrument of free Debate. For this purpose a small Chamber and a sense of intimacy are indispensable. It is notable that the Parliaments of the British Commonwealth have to a very large extent reproduced our Parliamentary institutions in their form as well as in their spirit, even to the Chair in which the Speakers of the different Assemblies sit. We do not seek to impose our ideas on others; we make no invidious criticisms of other nations. All the same we hold, none the less, 405 tenaciously to them ourselves. The vitality and the authority of the House of Commons and its hold upon an electorate, based upon universal suffrage, depends to no small extent upon its episodes and great moments, even upon its scenes and rows, which, as everyone will agree, are better conducted at close quarters. Destroy that hold which Parliament has upon the public mind and has preserved through all these changing, turbulent times and the living organism of the House of Commons would be greatly impaired. You may have a machine, but the House of. Commons is much more than a machine; it has earned and captured and held through long generations the imagination and respect of the British nation. It is not free from shortcomings; they mark all human institutions. Nevertheless, I submit to what is probably not an unfriendly audience on that subject that our House has proved itself capable of adapting itself to every change which the swift pace of modern life has brought upon us. It has a collective personality which enjoys the regard of the public and which imposes itself upon the conduct not only of individual Members but of parties. It has a code of its own which everyone knows, and it has means of its own of enforcing those manners and habits which have grown up and have been found to be an essential part of our Parliamentary life.
The House of Commons has lifted our affairs above the mechanical sphere into the human sphere. It thrives on criticism, it is perfectly impervious to newspaper abuse or taunts from any quarter, and it is capable of digesting almost anything or almost any body of gentlemen, whatever be the views with which they arrive. There is no situation to which it cannot address itself with vigour and ingenuity. It is the citadel of British liberty; it is the foundation of our laws; its traditions and its privileges are as lively to-day as when it broke the arbitrary power of the Crown and substituted that Constitutional Monarchy under which we have enjoyed so many blessings. In this war the House of Commons has proved itself to be a rock upon which an Administration, without losing the confidence of the House, has been able to confront the most terrible emergencies . . .
Food for thought, on a day when a reflective spirit will be of help, even on this Holy Thursday, April 18th 2019 in the year of our Lord. END