Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Notre Dame de Paris

by Frank Schnittger Tue Apr 16th, 2019 at 12:49:40 PM EST

There is not much I can say about the fire in Notre Dame that has not already been said better elsewhere. At over 850 years of age it is a testament to the stability and enduring qualities of the society which created and sustained it. It took over 200 years to build and has survived many different regimes, revolutions and world wars.

Encouragingly European leaders have rallied to the cause of its reconstruction saying it is a symbol of not just French but all European culture. It's good to have something positive to unite around, rather than the enduring negativity of Brexit.

For many, of course, it is a symbol more of the past than the future. Few attend religious services there any more, even as 30,000 visitors a day come to admire its architecture and artworks. When I visited it some years back it reminded me more of a past we have been fortunate to leave behind rather than an inspiration for the future.

But it is difficult to conceive of a project now that would still hold a central place in our society in 850 years time. We seem so obsessed with destroying the planet we live on that there may not even be a human society in the year 2869. Everything now is for the short term and we can't plan for 5 never mind 850 years ahead.

But we also don't have any strong uniting ideology, mythology or religion which would encourage us to think so far ahead. Neo-liberalism worships private wealth, and Brexit has sought to reduce the European project to a beggar thy neighbour exercise in greed and short term self-interest. Militarism seeks to industrialise the process of killing others.

Perhaps readers here can contribute towards a vision of what might sustain us as a common humanity for the next 850 years. Saving the planet from a devastating mass extinction event would be a good start...

Paris is a dwelling that is laid out in my mind, and has been for forty going on fifty years. Now it has a gaping, blackened hole in its substantial centre. There's an undeniable tug on the emotions there, a feeling of loss after the disbelief of watching the nonstop TV images of the fire.

Not that the religious function of the edifice matters much to me. On French public TV last night, a self-satisfied prelate insisted that Notre Dame had been a place of continuous prayer for all those centuries. Night and day, through the years, prayers had gone up to the high Altar above. No journalist asked him what use they had been, if the recipient of the prayers had not seen fit to protect the place.

Born of medieval theocracy, the cathedral was a magnificent human achievement in the name of an illusion that has faded. The French are massively less Catholic than they were a generation or two ago. Churches are empty, practically abandoned, there are few priests (even though the identitarian squad make plenty of noise). The truth is that today, Notre Dame's principal function was touristic. One more monument or museum to visit and say we have seen.

So I'm not sure that a single vision, a uniting mythology, really sustained the cathedral over 850 years. I don't think that, at its beginnings nor for long after, the brutal authoritarian religious hierarchy contributed to a sense of our common humanity. I wouldn't expect us to be able to project ourselves forward over another 850 years. However, if we need to sustain our common humanity, we need to have a lively sense of our common humanity, and of our place as living beings in a complex web of life that we must not destroy.

We're not there yet.

I used to be afew. I'm still not many.

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Tue Apr 16th, 2019 at 03:36:44 PM EST
a self-satisfied prelate insisted that Notre Dame had been a place of continuous prayer for all those centuries

Was there not a hiatus during the cult of reason during the French revolution?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 16th, 2019 at 04:59:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He didn't say Christian prayer. Didn't they pray to the Supreme Being at that time?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Apr 16th, 2019 at 05:05:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you are confusing the French revolution with the En Marche Bonapartist deification of Macron...</snark>

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 16th, 2019 at 06:40:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But surely not in Notre Dame. Jupiter is usually worshiped at the top of hills. Sacre Coeur would be more appropriate
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Apr 17th, 2019 at 06:45:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There was. The enthusiastic prelate must have forgotten that bit.

I used to be afew. I'm still not many.
by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Tue Apr 16th, 2019 at 05:46:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If we, as a species, are to survive and flourish for another 850 years our common culture has to evolve to the point where we, collectively, are effectively able to assume responsibility for directing our own evolution, both genetic and culturally, hopefully mostly culturally, in ways that are sustainable.

Millennia of projecting that responsibility onto some culturally created deity have left us ill prepared for such a task. Divine Providence is well past its sell by date. Believers seem impervious to the obvious incompatibility of a theology that posits a deity that is omniscient, omnibeneficent and omnipotent with observed reality.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Apr 16th, 2019 at 04:34:22 PM EST
This is of course provisional: there may be some structural damage that need yet to be assessed. A good summary:

The inside of the nave:

The 13th century frame, nicknamed "the forest" for its massive wooden beams is gone and the vault has been punctured near the center where the 19th century spire fell yesterday evening.

South rosace (on the river facing side):

There were major concerns during the night that the fire might spread to the northern bell tower (on the left hand side when facing the main entrance). These "belfries" have a distinctive square shape which makes them instantly recognized all over the world. Firefighters apparently managed to get into and stop the fire getting there.

by Bernard on Tue Apr 16th, 2019 at 06:38:41 PM EST
It seems to have been mainly the ancient wooden roof that was literally burned to the ground. At least some of the art works and relics inside were moved to safety. If the building is still fundamentally structurally sound, replacing the roof with look alike non-combustible materials should be possible. However if the structural integrity of the building has been compromised, the sky is the limit as to what it might cost to put things right. It might sound heretical right now, but there might be better ways of spending that money...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 16th, 2019 at 06:58:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There have been a lot of reports of foundations and businesses like Apple pledging millions of euros to finance the rebuilding (close to a billion so far). Add to these a number of the wealthiest French people.

A little noted fact is that many of these donations are eligible to a tax reduction of 60%. This means in practice that the French taxpayers will subsidize most of the oligarchs' "generosity". Le Monde:

Dons pour Notre-Dame de Paris : « C'est la collectivité publique qui va prendre en charge l'essentiel du coût »

La carcasse de pierre de Notre-Dame était encore fumante, mardi 16 avril au matin, que la polémique enflait déjà. Les dons pour la reconstruction de la cathédrale, émanant notamment de plusieurs grandes fortunes françaises issues du secteur du luxe, devraient ouvrir droit à des réductions d'impôts de 60 %, au titre de la niche fiscale sur le mécénat.

Autrement dit, « c'est la collectivité publique qui va prendre l'essentiel [des frais de reconstruction] en charge ! déplore Gilles Carrez, député Les Républicains (LR) et rapporteur spécial du programme patrimoine pour la commission des finances de l'Assemblée nationale. Sur 300 millions d'euros, 180 millions seront financés par l'Etat, au titre du budget 2020. »

by Bernard on Tue Apr 16th, 2019 at 06:48:11 PM EST
Climate change and environmental destruction is going to end modern civilization within the first half of this century. At this point, imagining a monument to prosperity or a unifying vision is somewhat pointless. Doom is inevitable. Maybe the scraps of humanity that survive this apocalypse will remember enough of what came before to pick up and elaborate the dying dreams of our last days, or maybe they won't. Who knows.
by Zwackus on Wed Apr 17th, 2019 at 12:25:16 AM EST
Emmanuel Macron has announced he wants to see Notre Dame cathedral rebuilt "more beautiful than before" within five years, but there are warnings that the repairs could take decades and will involve substantial challenges.
He should ask Trump for suggestions.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Apr 17th, 2019 at 06:24:58 AM EST
Trump Hotel Notre Dame! Bigger and better and with an addiitonal 1000kg. of gold leaf. Reserve the entire building for private parties!
by Zwackus on Wed Apr 17th, 2019 at 07:44:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Macron wants the reconstruction work to be ready for "his" 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. All the specialists estimate a minimum of 10-15 years, but, like Dilbert's pointy haired boss, some "start-up" president prefers to talk of "ambitious goals".
by Bernard on Wed Apr 17th, 2019 at 08:00:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Escobar: Now Comes The Notre Dame Of Billionaires
Notre-Dame belongs to the French state, which had been paying little to no attention to a gothic jewel that traversed eight centuries.

Fragments of arcades, chimeras, reliefs, gargoyles were always falling to the ground and kept in an improvised deposit in the back of the cathedral.

Only last year Notre-Dame got a check for 2 million euros to restore the spire -- which burned to the ground yesterday.

To restore the whole cathedral would have cost 150 million euros, according to the top world expert on Notre-Dame, who happens to be an American, Andrew Tallon.

Recently, the custodians of the cathedral and the French state were actually at war.

The French state was making at least 4 million euros a year, charging tourists to enter the Twin (Bell) Towers but putting back only 2 million euros for the maintenance of Notre-Dame [...]

Notre-Dame basically survives on donations -- which pay the salaries of only 70 employees who need not only to supervise the masses of tourists but also to organize eight masses a day.

If the state is unblushingly negligible and unreliable...

Macron talking a lot?

by das monde on Thu Apr 18th, 2019 at 12:03:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First Dog On The Moon has an obviously antipodean take.

I used to be afew. I'm still not many.
by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Wed Apr 17th, 2019 at 11:32:06 AM EST

"Victor Hugo thanks all the donors for their generosity in pledging funds to save Notre-Dame de Paris and would suggest they do the same for Les Misérables." This quip from writer Ollivier Pourriol has inspired many reactions and postings from the gilets jaunes movement who are continuing their protests.

They highlight the contrast between big businesses and wealthy French oligarchs ready to commit some "crazy dough" (Macron's favorite expression when talking of social transfers) for the cathedral reconstruction while forgetting the bulk of the people living close to the poverty line.

The 60% tax break for the money pledged is largely criticized: everybody understands the ordinary tax payers (those without offshore accounts) will have to foot the bill of the 1% "generosity". The backlash is so intense that the Pinault family, one of the wealthiest in France, announced they were giving up the tax incentive.

by Bernard on Wed Apr 17th, 2019 at 08:12:37 PM EST
More yellow vest protests despite [?] Notre Dame fire
"The yellow vests will show their anger against the billion found in four days for stones, and nothing for the needy"
Growing number of French shocked by income inequality
French Directorate for Research, Studies and the Evaluation of Statistics (DREES): uh oh

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Fri Apr 19th, 2019 at 04:09:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Some years ago I read somewhere that cut stone that had been in a fire was no longer reliable for use in substantial construction. I don't know why that should be the case, and I don't know how authoritive that pronouncement was, but if that is true, restoring Notre Dame is going to involve a lot more work than rebuilding the roof and spire.
My experience has long been that thoughtful restoration takes much longer and costs far more than new construction, but that hurried renovation costs even more in the long term. Building a new roof on overstressed walls could prove to be a bit of an embarrassment.
by Andhakari on Thu Apr 18th, 2019 at 07:55:54 AM EST
According tho the architect responsible ofr the the restorations of St. Mels Cathedral in Longford after a fire in 2009,

"The effect the fire had on the stone is probably the most important thing. Different stones are affected differently by fire. Granite is a much stronger stone and it survives the fire very easily; marble, which would be found on altar areas and the steps - it turns into a kind of sugar and so it crumbles in your fingers," he said.

"Limestone actually opens up like a book...The stone that was mostly used, from having been there before, is a limestone, a Caen limestone predominantly on the outer surface, but the walls on the inside would be quite different. I don't know what stone is on the inside but it is a softer stone than St Mel's."

Mr Redmond added water damage to the cathedral, which celebrated its 850th anniversary in 2013, would likely be "considerable".

"The thing is to allow it to dry slowly. If you were to go in with dehumidifiers or heating in there, the timber could distort and so forth," he added.

The restoration of St. Mel's - a much smaller provincial cathedral - took 5 years and cost €30 Million.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Apr 18th, 2019 at 02:11:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
alrighty then,
Saving the planet from a devastating mass extinction event: How's that project "investment" coming along?

Here is a UNIVERSAL, desirable goal (seek) of human enterprise and industry.

How do or will ALL people define the goal?

What are barriers (problems) impede goal attainment?

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Apr 18th, 2019 at 01:04:06 PM EST
But a Ministry of Culture official says Notre Dame should not expect regular help of this kind. 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.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Fri Apr 19th, 2019 at 04:20:49 PM EST
Neoliberalism and Notre-Dame - Current Affairs | Culture & Politics

Last year, the Brazilian National Museum caught fire. 90 percent of its collection of 20 million artifacts was incinerated, with precious and irreplaceable treasures lost forever, including audio recordings of indigenous languages that nobody speaks anymore and multi-thousand-year-old relics of pre-Columbian Indo-American cultures. Within minutes, history was reduced to ash.

Neoliberalism and Notre-Dame - Current Affairs | Culture & Politics

Notre-Dame is a slightly different story, but with the same lessons. It seems that the fire was an accident. But it was apparently also an accident "waiting to happen." The Wall Street Journal reports today that the cathedral had suffered "decades of neglect" and had been deteriorating and rotting. A senior adviser to the Friends of Notre-Dame commented: "For sure if the cathedral had been maintained regularly, with a higher level of funding, we would have avoided this... The more you wait, the more risks you have." What happened, then? Notre-Dame is beloved, so much so that a billion dollars instantly poured in to fund its repairs. With the public valuing Notre-Dame so highly, why was it deteriorating and lacking in funds

by generic on Fri Apr 19th, 2019 at 04:56:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LRB, 2010
But the real gargoyles were about to prove that they hadn't finished yet. In 1996, Notre-Dame was undergoing yet another restoration. While shops around the Ile de la Cité were selling Disney merchandise, gargoyle mouse-mats, howling, motion-sensing Stryges and the like, something weird was happening under the plastic sheeting and the scaffolding. When the sheeting was removed, the gargoyles and chimeras were seen, once again, in what was supposed to be their original eeriness. Yet something had changed: some of the monsters wore a smirk; others had an unmistakeably fatuous, goofy look about them. An unseen, irresistible power had been guiding the restorers' hands. The monsters had morphed into something far more frightening than the Day of Judgment. The great symbol of Gallic continuity and tradition had been colonised by the minions of globalised American mass culture. The demonic menagerie was still manufacturing horribly plausible nightmares: Notre-Dame had been Disneyfied, and only the cleansing acid of rain and pollution will restore it to inscrutability. Meanwhile, the new, cleaned-up Stryge is licking his lips in anticipation of the McDonald's that is about to open in the Carrousel du Louvre.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Apr 21st, 2019 at 03:44:07 PM EST

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]