The excerpt below is from an opinion article written by Conrad Black for The National Post, which originally appeared on April 18, 2019. The original article in its entirety can be read here.
Next to St. Peter’s Basilica and the Palace of Versailles, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is probably the most eminent building in all Europe, and of course, is older than the first two. It was saddening and even terrifying to see so much of a splendid building that has endured 856 years consumed in flames. It was the sort of destruction people can accept more easily in the midst of a total war, as in the destruction of the British Parliament buildings and serious damage to St. Paul’s Cathedral in the Second World War. France is not a strongly practicing Catholic country, but Roman Catholicism is upheld by influential and intellectually respectable elements of French society, and the Catholic personality of the country and its history is appreciated by everyone except the far left. The Gallican French Church can assimilate all the vagaries of human nature; it is the ultimate worldly church. Some of its 20th-century theologians, such as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Jacques Maritain, were among the most influential in the world. And Notre Dame, beyond all other buildings in Europe, has been in the seminal moments of the history of Europe through most of the Middle Ages, and through all the complexities of the history of France as one of the world’s greatest nation states, which it remains.
When Henry IV won the civil war and in order to unite the country under him, became a Roman Catholic (famously saying: “Paris is worth a mass”) it was in Notre Dame that the mass occurred. All the kings of France from Philip Augustus in the 12th century were frequent communicants here. The cathedral was substantially vandalized by Jacobin extremists during the Terror in the French Revolution. Napoleon founded the First Empire in Notre Dame, when, in emulation of Charlemagne, he took the crown from Pope Pius VII and crowned himself. In the Paris Commune of 1871, there was more vandalism, yet the most important relics, including, it is claimed and believed, the original crown of thorns, survived, and survived the fire this week. Of the six cardinal-archbishops of Paris between the French Revolution in 1789 and the founding of the Third Republic in 1871, two died naturally and received solemn princely funerals in Notre Dame, two fled for their lives, and two were murdered. The great cathedral has been the serene witness of much upheaval.
Read the original article in its entirety here