The terrible sight of the great cathedral of Notre Dame burning was like watching 800 years of history burn. Europe is difficult to understand without an understanding of the importance of a building like Notre Dame. Generations shaped this beautiful structure which symbolised the beauty of Paris and survived wars, revolutions and empires. The cathedral inspired art and poetry, romance and wisdom; it testified to love and forgiveness and it is still a proud achievement of humanity and of European history.
Following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire it took over 300 years for any sort of unity to emerge and during these ages records of Roman culture and tradition were only preserved in the West thanks to clerics and monastic libraries. Towards the end of the 5th century Celtic clerics, notably St Columbus and his companions, decided to come to Europe and created an amazing cultural renaissance. Many of our modern cities, like St Malo (France), were founded by Celtic clerics and today we owe them the renaissance of Europe. They crossed France, Germany and Italy, creating hundreds of monasteries on their way.
At that time Faith and Church were the source of art, culture, economics, progress, security, peace and education, inspiring all levels of society. Great cities built cathedrals as examples of pride and honour.
In today’s secularized European Union we are trying to abolish our identity and our roots. We are willing to forget our past, or we judge it by our own modern standards often shaped by what we see on screen.
This is what makes the burning of Notre Dame so serious. Thanks to the fire, perhaps in future the cathedral could become merely a tourist destination, visited by millions only to admire a view of Paris from the roof, shop underneath the church or go to the cathedral museum. Notre Dame would certainly generate a huge income and perhaps this is why the French government is so anxious to rebuild it in 5 years. Why so fast? Could it be connected to the prospect of millions of visitors who will crowd into Paris for the Olympics in five years time?
Is it time to find a new use for our churches? History is the past. Evolution and progress are the future. If putting churches to new use brings in money surely that is even better?
Why bother with History? Churches turn into temples and temples into shopping malls? Is that our future? We are killing our climate and our planet and having killed God, as Neitzsche wrote, why not kill the notion of a human being? Killing dignity through racism and denying biological identity or gender. Welcome to a New Age!