The Thinking 

Notre Dame

December 14, 2012

Illustration from Victor Hugo et son temps (1881)

WHILE FRANCE’S National Observatory of Secularism sets to work ridding the nation of “religious pathology,” the ramparts of the extravagantly anti-secularist Notre Dame Cathedral remain, towering over Paris, flying buttresses buttressing and gargoyles gargoyling, as they have for hundreds of years. The cathedral celebrates its 850th anniversary starting this week. Galliawatch reports on the installation of a new organ and the festivities.

In 1185, Heraclius of Caesarea called for the Third Crusade from the still-unfinished cathedral. On November 7, 1455, Isabelle Romée, the mother of Joan of Arc, requested that her daughter’s conviction for heresy be overturned at Notre Dame. In December, 1804, Napoleon I was crowned there and in August of 1944, the liberation of Paris was celebrated with a Te Deum mass. To a gargoyle on the towers of Notre Dame, Quasimodo said, “Why was I not made of stone like thee?”

Notre Dame is France.

Victor Hugo wrote of Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame:

He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues in solitary conversation with it. If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.

1853 photo by Charles Nègre of Henri Le Secq next to le Stryge in the then-new Gallery of Chimeras.

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