Michael Knowles explains how the rich history and symbolism of Notre Dame cathedral cannot be replaced or updated on Tuesday’s episode of “The Michael Knowles Show.” Transcript and video below.
The authorities are saying it doesn’t seem as though it was arson. And it doesn’t seem as though it was terror. I sure would like to know what did cause it.
Now on the bright side, there is a silver lining here. A lot of relics, a lot of artwork was saved from within the cathedral. There were priceless artifacts in Notre Dame. There is a relic, the crown of thorns that was placed on Christ’s head, was in Notre Dame. Father John Mark Fournier who is the chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade, he ran into the burning cathedral to save that relic, to save the crown of thorns and to save the Blessed Sacrament … to save the Eucharist, the body of Christ.
There is another relic, a nail from the True Cross, the Cross on which Christ was crucified that was saved. Unfortunately, part of the crown of thorns, a piece of it was stored in the spire that is believed to have been destroyed when that spire burned down. And although the facade remains apparently structurally intact, the roof completely burned down. The frame of that roof, which dates back to the 12th century, over eight hundred years old, destroyed. This oak that dates back, upwards of a thousand years, destroyed. …
Macron, the leader of France, he says they will rebuild. I hope so, that would be nice. Other conservatives, other Christians and other people in France have called for it to be rebuilt. That would be nice. It would be wonderful to be able to rebuild Notre Dame. But you can’t. You can do something, and you can try to restore parts of it. You can try to somehow move forward. But you can’t rebuild it, exactly. First of all, any attempt to rebuild it will take decades. The Cathedral took over a century to build, and it won’t be the same.
It just won’t be the same. This is the sad thing. We don’t want to acknowledge this in our culture because we think we can replace everything. You break your computer and you can replace that; you drop your iPhone and you get a new iPhone… we can replace this, and we’ll rebuild the house and we’ll rebuild this: you can’t rebuild Notre Dame.
Why can’t you rebuild Notre Dame? One, we don’t really even know how that roof was built. There is so much technical knowledge that has been lost over the centuries. This is hard for us to imagine because we think we’re modern and we know everything and everyone before us was an idiot. We don’t know how to build that roof. We don’t know exactly what they did. Technical knowledge can be lost. But moreover, it took so long to build that it took so much commitment. It took such a strength of the Catholic Church. It took such a unity between the church and the state to build Notre Dame. Those don’t exist anymore.
Western Christendom is such a shadow of its former self. You can’t rebuild Notre Dame. This burning is in many ways a symbol of the decay of the faith throughout Europe. Hilaire Baloch, the writer, once said a famous line, it got him in trouble and was controversial, he said, “the faith is Europe and Europe is the faith.” He’s referring to the Catholic faith, Western Christendom. That is what defines Europe. When that cracks, what is Europe? What is left? Then Notre Dame is not a cathedral, it’s a museum. To listen to people, talk about Notre Dame yesterday, to listen to pundits talk about it, it was as though they were talking about a museum.
It was as though they were talking like Ilhan Omar, “art and architecture,” it’s such a loss of art and architecture. It is, but the art and architecture means something. It’s not just a museum. It’s a cathedral. It is animated by a living faith. And if that faith disappears from Europe, then you just have ruins you had ruins before it burned to the ground.