In the wake of Notre Dame’s inferno, while many hope to see that magnificent landmark to God grace the Parisian skyline once again, others see the burning of the iconic Catholic cathedral in a far different light. Take the recent response by Rolling Stone, for example, which promotes a quote from an architect hailing the fire as “an act of liberation.”
“How should France rebuild Notre Dame?” the Rolling Stone’s E.J. Dickson asks in the title of an op-ed published Tuesday. Rather than give the obvious answer – exactly as it was – Dickson goes on to flirt with the idea of Notre Dame becoming something else, forever ridding it of the meaning that so many people ascribe to it, which the article suggests is some kind of pathological clinging to a past-that-never-was.
“The damage wrought by the Notre Dame fire has also raised important questions about the cathedral’s symbolic significance in an increasingly divided France, and how to rebuild (or which version of the cathedral should be rebuilt) going forward — and in some ways, these questions are one and the same,” writes Dickson.
While the author notes the vast, incalculable historical significance that Notre Dame holds, Dickson also highlights the modernists who feel “resentment” toward the cathedral, wondering if the rebuilding will meet their cultural needs as well.
“For some people in France, Notre Dame has also served as a deep-seated symbol of resentment, a monument to a deeply flawed institution and an idealized Christian European France that arguably never existed in the first place,” writes Dickson. “If nothing else, the cathedral has been viewed by some as a stodgy reminder of ‘the old city — the embodiment of the Paris of stone and faith — just as the Eiffel Tower exemplifies the Paris of modernity, joie de vivre and change,’ Michael Kimmelmann wrote for the New York Times.”
To underscore this, Dickson includes a quote from Harvard University architecture historian Patricio del Real, who said the cathedral had become “overburdened with meeting” and referred to the scourge of fire as an “act of liberation.”
“The building was so overburdened with meaning that its burning feels like an act of liberation,” said Patricio del Real.
To really drive the point home, Rolling Stone chose to highlight the quote in promoting the article on Twitter, which prompted swift backlash.
Fortunately, French politicians have stayed away from politicizing Notre Dame in such a way. French President Emmanuel Macron has announced the cathedral will be even “more beautiful” and has called for it to be rebuilt in five years.
“The fire at Notre Dame reminds us that our history never stops and we will always have challenges to overcome,” Macron said on Tuesday night, The Guardian reports. “We will rebuild Notre Dame, more beautiful than before – and I want it done in the next five years. We can do it. After the time of testing comes a time of reflection and then of action.”
Experts speculate, however, the rebuilding of Notre Dame could take decades to rebuild. For instance, the roof was comprised of oak beams cut from centuries-old trees that likely do not even exist in Europe today.
“Some of that material may be reusable, and that’s a painstaking exercise. It’s like an archaeological excavation,” Duncan Wilson, chief executive of the conservation organization Historic England, told The Guardian.