"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Whither Notre Dame?



Monday's horrible news of the fire that destroyed so much of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral was immediately followed by a global outpouring of both grief and generosity. By Tuesday afternoon, over one billion dollars (US) had already been pledged by people both in and outside of France for the rebuilding efforts.


French Freemasons To Support Rebuilding Efforts

The Grand Master of the Grande Loge Nationale Française, Jean-Pierre Rollet, issued an announcement that the GLNF's Charitable Foundation has set up a relief fund to add Masonic financial support to the rebuilding efforts. See the English translation of his statement below (click to enlarge):



The link to make a targeted online donation to the GLNF Foundation for the Notre Dame restoration is in French HERE. This is NOT a GoFundMe or similar questionable link. It is legitimately the Grand Lodge's official donation site. Be sure you understand the French instructions on the page, as it specifies whether your donation is a one-time or monthly gift.

There are already lots of bogus fund raising links being circulated. As for legitimate non-Masonic and other U.S.-based organizations also raising funds for Notre Dame's restoration, see How to donate to Notre Dame Cathedral relief efforts on CNet.com.


Remembering Notre Dame de Paris

Alice and I heard the news about Notre Dame Cathedral on the radio Monday afternoon as we drove to Massachusetts, and after we set up camp, we went looking through what photos we have on our computers dating back to at least 2003 or so. 









Every time we have visited Paris, we went to Notre Dame and almost always followed the same path. We entered the west doors late in the afternoon, then filed along the north aisle, peering into each of the small chapel niches and discovering a new surprise every time. We walked around the altar at the east end, pausing to soak in the intricate wooden bas relief over the choir ambulatory that depicted Christ's life. 




We'd file through the reliquary chapel and try to absorb the enormity of the history and culture and tradition contained in just that tiny area with its irreplaceable treasures. I'd pause to photograph the south and west rose windows as the sun still illuminated them. 






If there was a Mass, we'd sit to the end. If there was a choir or organist, we'd listen for a long while as the sound soared and echoed and reverberated throughout the stone walls and vaulted ceiling. Alice would insist on lighting offering candles or having a rosary, or medal blessed by one of the priests. 
We'd take one last look to the golden cross in the East, then exited and went around the north side to visit the junk shops on the narrow street that clings to the shadowed north side.



At the south end of the cathedral, we always turned back and shot photos of the side that so many visitors miss - the Garden of John XIII with its breathtaking view of the spire and the magical buttresses. Sometimes we'd climb down to the small, nearly hidden memorial of the Holocaust beside the bridge. Then across the Pont l'Archeveché and the Quai for dinner in the fading light as the Cathedral's night lights came on.


It is looking as though the fire was not the result of maliciousness, terrorism, or even the Luftwaffe. Instead, it most probably was caused by accident, proving that in the 21st century not only can we not achieve greatness anymore - we can't even be trusted to preserve what greatness we have inherited from the past. The wooden timbers that burned last night have been part of that roof since 1160.


"[I]n some ways the future of civilization in Europe will be decided by our attitude towards the great churches and other cultural buildings of our heritage standing in our midst. Do we contend with them, ignore them, engage with them or continue to revere them? Do we preserve them? 
"Though politicians may imagine that ages are judged on the minutiae of government policy, they are not. They are judged on what they leave behind: most of all on how they treat what the past has handed into their care. Even if today’s disaster was simply the most freakish of accidents, ours would still be the era that lost Notre Dame."
President Macron and the French authorities are putting on a brave face today, saying Notre Dame will be rebuilt. It's withstood indignities, desecration, "the lapse of time, the ruthless hand of ignorance, and the devastations of war" in the past, and so I'm sure it will rise again in time. After all, the destruction - as bad as it is - has left her stone walls standing. Operative Masons will pour in from around the world, and perhaps there will be a new interest by young craftsmen to learn the ancient arts. Perhaps there will be a rebirth of appreciation for what came before us. The most modern materials may partially replace what the fire destroyed, with modern compromises and choices that will put yet another stamp on it for future centuries. 

But probably not within my lifetime.

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