Two years ago, the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caught on fire, plunging the whole world into collective shock. Hundreds of images circulated online that showed the massive cathedral enshrouded by smoke and firefighters doing their best to put out the flames while the heroic priest Fr. Fournier distinguished himself by risking his life in order to save the relics inside.
The ominous symbolism of this incident was much too poignant to ignore. As many writers at the time (including myself) remarked, it wasn’t just an old church that caught on fire, it was Western Civilization itself. We weren’t just losing a mere tourist site; we were losing our cultural identity. And, considering today’s ever worsening decadence and malaise, we would never recover what was lost.
It was likely this sentiment that inspired so many worldwide to donate nearly a billion dollars to renovation efforts. It was also this sentiment that likely resulted in the French government’s decision to renovate the exterior in the same Gothic style as it was before, instead of attempting to modernize the roof with a greenhouse or pool.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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Unfortunately, the interior renovations are a separate issue, and the same effort to “bring the Church into the 21st century” is currently underway. According to an exclusive report in The Telegraph, some renovators have submitted designs to completely redo the interior of the church where “confessional boxes, altars and classical sculptures will be replaced with modern art murals, and new sound and light effects to create ‘emotional spaces.’” No longer will the inside of Notre Dame look like a Gothic cathedral but more like a bizarre looking megachurch with vaulted arches and stained glass.
As an architect who saw the plans claimed, “It’s as if Disney were entering Notre Dame.” The new design will even feature a “discovery trail” for incoming visitors with words projected on the wall to explain various stories from the Bible.
And, like the Disney corporation, all these artistic innovations have a markedly woke agenda. Besides illustrating and explaining the Bible’s greatest hits, fourteen of the church’s chapels will also showcase the different cultures of the world, specifically Africa and Asia, all of which are intended to align with the message of Pope Francis’ environmentalist encyclical Laudato Si.
In some ways, this will be even worse than the Gothic churches converted into nightclubs and bookstores. At least those transformations led to something more fun and interesting, albeit sacrilegious and wrong. This change to Notre Dame will effectively make Paris’ greatest monument into something boring and insipid—as well as sacrilegious and wrong.
Naturally, those pushing these changes are two typically progressive Catholic clergymen, Archbishop Aupetit and Fr. Drouin. Intoxicated with the relativist “Spirit of Vatican II,” they have no conception of artistic or spiritual excellence and are all too eager to downplay the meaning and look of Notre Dame.
The only situation that’s comparable to what’s happening in Paris is the Ottoman defacement of the Hagia Sophia, where the basilica-turned-mosque still boasts an exquisite Romanesque design on the outside but looks like a dusty colorless warehouse on the inside. For anyone who has visited the famous Byzantine monument, the experience is both transcendent and tragic.
Although some might excuse a Notre Dame de Disney as utterly suited to the times, it completely misses the point of great art, which is to lift humanity to new heights. In truth, no one is worthy of Notre Dame Cathedral, certainly no one in the twenty-first century, nor any Frenchmen in the fourteenth century. It is creation intended for God Himself. It is His house—Catholics take this point quite literally. As such, the church is a creation designed to help men unite with God in His own home.
Just as important is a church’s capacity to unite God’s people with one another. In Christianity, all men are created in God’s image, and thus all are equal in dignity. Yes, they all come from different backgrounds, and some aren’t Christian, but their common humanity is manifested in God’s glory. Put another way, a church’s beauty and spirit brings people together in a much deeper way than a cheap spectacle validating different cultures and lifestyles.
For this reason, the “wreckovators” (as Rod Dreher calls them) will actually divide and alienate visitors. They will behold the shameless multicultural pandering, the hippie aesthetic, and the superficiality of all of it. If they wanted a bland celebration of diversity and globalism, they could turn on their televisions at home and watch the latest superhero flick. No, they go to Notre Dame to be inspired and experience something heavenly.
But now, all that is in danger. No one—not the planet, not minorities, not non-Christians, and certainly not Our Lady—benefits from a hollowed-out Notre Dame Cathedral. Everyone loses, both materially and spiritually.
While it’s clear the world has changed since the building of Notre Dame, the very least that can be done is to preserve it from any destructive attempts of modernization. After all, it’s God’s house, not ours.
[Photo Credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images]