Despite public outcry, France’s National Heritage and Architecture Commission voted Thursday to approve restoration plans that critics claim will turn historic Notre Dame cathedral into a “woke” theme park.
The plans, overseen by Father Gilles Drouin, include removing confessionals and altars from the 13th-century edifice and replacing classic artwork and sculpture with modern “street art.” The culture ministry has confirmed that “street art pioneer Ernest Pignon-Ernest, as well as other modern artists such as Anselm Kiefer and Louise Bourgeois, are among the names being considered for display when new art installations replace some of the little-used 19th-century confessionals,” reports AFP.
The plans to renovate the interior of the Gothic masterpiece, which suffered a devastating fire in April 2019 that destroyed the spire and most of the roof, also reportedly include dedicating one of the side chapels to the theme of environmentalism. The new design also calls for adding new light displays and sound effects to create “emotional spaces.” Drouin argues that these spaces will make the church more “welcoming,” for people who are “not always from a Christian culture.”
Over 100 French artists, architects, and historians have blasted the plans as “kitsch.”
In a petition titled “Notre-Dame de Paris: What the fire spared, the diocese wants to destroy,” published in the French newspaper Le Figuero, critics begged the commission to honor the work of the great 19th-century medieval restorationist Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, who painstakingly restored the Cathedral from the ravages of the French Revolution.
“Let’s respect [Viollet-le-Duc’s] work, let’s respect the work of artist and craftsmen who have toiled to offer us this jewel, let us simply respect the heritage principles of a historical monument,” they wrote.
Another French paper, the left-leaning Le Monde, framed the argument in political terms, saying it amounted to a clash between “advocates of modernity and ecumenism and the guardians of a nostalgic conservatism.”
One critic told British outlet The Telegraph, “In France, what is called modernisation amounts to vandalism.” As The Daily Wire previously reported, the paper was the first to break the news of the restoration proposal, describing it as ‘woke Disney.”
World-renowned French architect Maurice Cullot said, “It’s as if Disney were entering Notre-Dame,” adding, “What they are proposing to do to Notre-Dame would never be done to Westminster Abbey or Saint Peter’s in Rome. It’s a kind of theme park and very childish and trivial given the grandeur of the place.”
One of the petition’s signatories, La Tribune de l’Art Editor-in-Chief Didier Rykner, told The New York Times of the commission’s decision, “The church is 2,000 years old — it is an old lady. It has a history that we must respect, that today’s people cannot erase with a stroke of the pen.”