F Rosa Rubicondior: Notre Dame - Not Just a Catholic Cathedral

Monday 15 April 2019

Notre Dame - Not Just a Catholic Cathedral

No trip abroad or to a new city in the UK for my partner and I would be complete without a visit to the local cathedral, and so it was when we were in Paris some years ago. We put an afternoon aside for it.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame was a monument not just, or for us as Atheists even partly, to the 'Glory of God', but to to the glory of mankind's artistry and craftsmanship.

We looked upon the skill and dedication of the carpenters, stonemasons, iconographers and stained-glass window designers and creators and wondered who they were. What lives did they live? How did they get those skills? What were their thoughts as they made their mark and left a record of their existence for future generations?

Certainly, we saw too the conspicuous opulence collected from the poor and used to dazzles them with 'God's Glory' and we saw the trappings of a death cult used to cow and terrorise the people into obedience, but they were secondary.

We saw the most magnificent rose window; we saw the care and precision of the wooden roof timbers, structural but at the same time beautiful; we saw the gargoyles around the roof, tributes to the anonymous artisans who incorporated their humour into their work as they left their mark for posterity, but not their names. We saw the flying buttresses, holding up the walls the weight of the roof was pushing down and outward on. The ingenious solution to the problem or height and weight.

And we saw the heart of a great city; a heart that belonged to each and every Parisienne.

Notre Dame was not just a Cathedral; it was the crystallization of a culture; a showcase for the art and skill of a people at a time in their history.

This is a sad night from which no Atheist should take comfort. It is a national tragedy for France and a loss to all of us. The work of anonymous craftsmen, maybe their only contribution from a life of which we know nothing - their one mark on history and one sign that they ever lived - has just been destroyed.

It can and should rise again from the ashes, but it will not be their work.

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