The Unz Review • An Alternative Media Selection$
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewGuillaume Durocher Archive
Weeping for Notre-Dame
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information


Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • B
Show CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Thanks, LOL, or Troll with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

The recent fire which destroyed much of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris has led to a great outpouring of emotion. Social media were also ablaze and the government was quickly able to raise a €1 billion in donation pledges to rebuild the iconic monument. Some people I know were quite affected by the sight, being practically reduced to tears. Others were less moved. Quite a few people have been indignant about the money raised: Why not spend such sums on poverty or the environment rather than a mere pile of stone? One person even joked that the edifice should be razed to the ground to make way for something new.

Yet, Notre-Dame resonates. Partly, no doubt, for shallow reasons: Paris is the most-visited city in the world and Notre-Dame is one of the City of Light’s most-visited attractions. As such, millions of frequent-fliers, however godless or anti-Christian they might otherwise be, feel some emotional connection to this great cathedral.

And yet, I think there is something more. Notre-Dame is simply and objectively a national and earthly masterpiece: the intricately semi-controlled chaos of the the Gothic, the delicacy of “stone made into lace” (in the words of Jean-Yves Le Gallou), those gloriously Christian and European luminous flowers of stained glass, so suggestive of the transcendent . . . all this expresses, more viscerally and better than any book, the best that the French soul has had to offer to the world. Notre-Dame is a collective work of art, meticulously built up and maintained from generation to generation.

In much the same way, a nation is a collective work of art, each generation having a responsibility to protect and pass on this inheritance, and add their piece to the edifice. The Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran, a perceptive observer of national character if there ever was one, once said: “France is Notre-Dame Cathedral reflected in the Seine . . . a cathedral which spurns the sky.” We will have occasion to meditate on the meaning of these words.

Notre-Dame has a significance going beyond France however. Given France’s remarkable contribution to humanity’s cultural heritage, it is not too surprising that the art historian Kenneth Clarke chose Notre-Dame for the opening of his classic 1969 BBC documentary series Civilisation. “What is civilization? ,” Clarke rhetorically asks. “I don’t know. I can’t define it in abstract terms yet. But I think I can recognize it when I see it . . .” He then turns to Notre-Dame, adding: “. . . and I’m looking at it now.”

Notre-Dame burning then is a symbol, a shocking reminder, of the impermanence not merely of old monuments, but of nations and civilizations. Growing up, I had the firm feeling that France was a living, vigorous, and timeless nation, and I was often moved reading the old Gaullist rhetoric of the need to fight for la France éternelle. When I saw those great monuments of brick and stone found in all major European cities, I had a feeling of solidity, of an immovable heritage, of a stable world. But all this is an illusion. Nothing is eternal, least of all nations and civilizations, although we may present things otherwise to reassure our selves. That is also why Notre-Dame burning was such a shock: there is the most graphic reminder that France is mortal and indeed Western civilization itself is mortal. This is not a new observation of of course, as the philosopher Paul Valéry said in 1919: “We civilizations now know that we are mortal.”

I must then admit that I was not particularly moved by Notre-Dame burning. I’ve already made my peace with impermanence. I already know that the rot that is consuming France will in all likelihood kill this fair nation within my lifetime. My heart has already been broken. I have already wept for this. Who can claim, in all sincerity, that in a mere hundred years a nation will still exist on this soil – let alone a nation worthy of the name “France”?

And I have wept and raged at my countrymen and my fellows who would persecute those wish to prevent this. How then may I cry for Notre-Dame? This is the despair of all identitarians, most often a silent despair. And I’ve not done much to express my concern, besides a few scribblings and conversations. But others have. You may be crying for Notre-Dame, but others have wept long before you, at the prospect of our nation, indeed our entire European civilization, sleepwalking into nothingness. It is not a coincidence if Dominique Venner, a great historian and European patriot, took his own life in Notre-Dame Cathedral, the spiritual heart of France, in May 2013, in one final effort to awaken the French people. But how many listened then? That was then. We have today, and tomorrow.

• Category: History, Ideology • Tags: France 
Hide 26 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
  1. anon[271] • Disclaimer says:

    “What is civilization?” The last drunken splurge of the human species.

    “The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.”
    ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

    • Replies: @Dieter Kief
  2. This article nailed it, isolating the key reason for the Internet-wide mourning: the symbolic awakening of Western Civilization’s perishability. If France can be destroyed, everything in the West is vulnerable. From looking at all of those 18th century paintings of Greek and Roman ruins, we shouldn’t be so shocked. Western civilization’s glory days have been mourned before. But post-Enlightenment, France took over the mantle as the artistic capital of the Western world. It has such a high concentration of Western styles at their peak performance, starting long before the era of the French Academy rejected by the Impressionists, stretching all the way back before the Sun King spent so much money on the fine and applied arts.

    • Replies: @Alden
  3. Apparently this identitarian thinks only others are identitarians and not him. Look to the log in thine own eye.

    • Replies: @Passerby
  4. Who can claim, in all sincerity, that in a mere hundred years a nation will still exist on this soil – let alone a nation worthy of the name “France”?

    The book “Vanished Kingdoms” by Norman Davies leaves me in no doubt about the impermanence of the nations to which we belong. The countries of Western Europe will still exist in 100 years’ time, but only as the names of territories, and no longer as nations.

    • Replies: @Curmudgeon
  5. Anon[300] • Disclaimer says:

    The tragedy of the death throes of Western Civilization is that it didn’t have to be this way. Western people could have made so many better choices over the past 50 years. Perhaps if a phoenix comes out of the ashes of Western Civilization – nearly impossible because it now has a Tower-of-Babel-mongrel population – the leaders will learn the sad lessons of what we are witnessing now, and how to guard against it next time – if there actually is a next time.

    • Agree: RadicalCenter
  6. @James N. Kennett

    My reaction to that statement was somewhat different. Only Israel has the right to exist, apparently.

  7. alexander says:

    Dear Mr. Durocher,

    Thank you for a fine article. There is no doubt Notre Dame stood as one of the supreme masterpieces of humanity.

    Its destruction is an immense tragedy for us all.

    Have the french authorities conducted a full and thorough investigation as to the cause ?

    I know that fire investigators have at their disposal an immense array of forensic technology to determine cause.

    They should be able to recreate the entire scenario, as it occurred, through forensic science.

    Have they done that yet ?

    Has there been any word ?

    What was the cause of the fire to begin with ?, ..Has anyone, anywhere, said anything ? …How is it humanly possible that not one member of the entire French government has a clue , even “several weeks” after this horrific tragedy occurred ?

    How is this possible ?

    To date, there has been exactly “zero” information disseminated as to the cause, as far as I can tell.

    Why is that ?

    One of the greatest masterpieces in all of human civilization…and not one person in the entire French government has even the remotest clue as to the cause of its destruction ?

    How is this even possible ?

    How ?

    Do you know anything more than I do ?

    Does anyone ?

  8. Tusk says:

    And I have wept and raged at my countrymen and my fellows who would persecute those wish to prevent this. How then may I cry for Notre-Dame? This is the despair of all identitarians, most often a silent despair.

    All I can say Guillaume is that this quote perfectly reflects the truth as I see it, and despite what it reflects, it is refreshing to see the feeling is mutual amongst others.

  9. @alexander

    This might interest you:

    At any rate, it’s a hypothesis.

    • Replies: @alexander
  10. Anonymous [AKA "Quaff"] says:

    As to the cause of the fire, what would be the effect if it was announced to have been an arson, and the perpetrator was not a Frenchman ?

    • Replies: @alexander
  11. Franz says:

    Dominique Venner paid Notre Dame its highest compliment, and Victor Hugo noted why.

    Hugo saw that the cathedral was designed by men who would be long dead before it was completed, and by different generations who would work on something that they themselves might never enjoy. Each generation of workers added something of their own, making the edifice ultimately a work of art by the entire people. And they were an amazing people; their blood is still within us.

    Venner, like Hugo’s insight about the structure, will be appreciated widely again when the current anti-European regimes are hauled up and impaled on the wreckage they have inflicted on their subjects. The wreckage will be contained, then reversed.

    Some of us stopped being young but refuse to be hopeless. It is not over yet. Yellow Vest still awaken the sleeping, and every day less European souls sleep.

    Change will come. It might already be here, too new for us to recognize.

  12. alexander says:

    Thanks for that.

    The writing style of Mr. Meyssan is a little choppy , so I am not sure exactly what he is saying.

    Is he saying Macron is “forbidding” a fire investigation at Notre Dame Cathedral ?

    Can that even be possible ?

    That seems utterly surreal .

  13. @alexander

    alexander—What was the cause of the fire

    The Gatestone article, ‘The Burning of Notre Dame and the Destruction of Christian Europe’, considers the possibility of arson, on the grounds that ‘If the fire really was an accident, it is almost impossible to explain how it started.’ The article quotes the cathedral’s former chief architect and the chief architect of French Historic Monuments.

    • Replies: @alexander
  14. alexander says:
    @Digital Samizdat

    Comment # 12 was my response to your comment #9 .


  15. alexander says:
    @Johnny Rottenborough


    I heard the chief architect speak on a French news program, he explained how the positioning of all the electric boxes in the stairwells would prevent an electric fire from igniting the roof ….even if one were to occur.

    We all know it is impossible to determine the cause of a fire until a full forensic investigation is complete.

    Is that not the case here ?

    Am I to understand that a proper forensic fire investigation to determine the cause has been “forbidden” by the French government ?

    Can this actually be true ?

  16. alexander says:

    If there was a perpetrator of the fire he should be sent to prison for a very ,very long time…..What difference does it make if he (or she ) is a Frenchman or not a Frenchman ?

    • Replies: @NoseytheDuke
  17. Thanks for posting this photo of the burning metal “rider” of Notre Dame. Unfortunately, you did not mention the photographer. It might well be, that Macrons hints at something new and better, which should come along with the reconstruction of Notre Dame might imply: Lets get rid of this “rocket-like” sins of the war times of the past and lets create something peaceful instead…

    Yeah, well, nothing lasts for long (Joni Mitchell, Chinese Café / on Wild Things Run Fast.

    The writer Peter Handke, who lives near Pris since 20+ years, happened to beat the Saine when the fire broke out. He talked about his experience in the German weekly Die Zeit from last Thursday. He had the impression, that nobody cared about the fire – for quite some time – for more than twenty minutes. People didn’t even look at it he said, he had the impression, he was the only one who saw it (would want to perceive it).
    He then visited a movie theater to watch a film about the “speechless” yellow vests”. While watching the movie, his wife Sophie gave him a call on his mobile phone and cried – on his phone box.
    Notre Dame, Handke says in this article, is Europe for him. If the Peter’s Dome in Rome would burn down, he wouldn’t care much, he said, and he wouldn’t care much if the famous Vienna Burgtheater would burn down (which premiered quite a few of his plays).

    Maybe Europe is more of a transformative thing than we all can think of. As far as the future is concerned, we’re all just prisoner’s here/ Of our own device (Eagles, Hotel California). Less dramatic: We’re all provincial, as far as the future is concerned (Habermas). Less philosophical: Nobody knows the future.
    More religious: To say somehting about the future (of europe, ofr France, for example) means, to imitate God. – So, I could conclude on a Parisian Heirich-Heine-note: It suits our vast and bleak godforsaken )Joni Mitchelll, Paprika Plains) times quite well, to feel a desparation about a future, we simply can’t know, while pretending to know it anyway, since God is growing smaller and smaller every day, whereas our human endeavors seem to become mor important, more sparkling and to encompass more Grandeur than ever before…

  18. @anon

    “The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.”
    ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Civilization will not cause the end of the reception of the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

    (It’s interesting to note, that a Band like the Eagles not least by money, their civilizational-critic monster hit Hotel California helped create, helped to preserve Emersons Walden Pond. – If the DEvil was a culture critic, whose main interest was, to disturb the death quietness of the old Frankfurt SChool, he would have authored (0r initiated) this story of the utterly commercial pseudo-cowboys of the Eagles as the saviors of Walden Pond. – This is Heinrich Heine’s (and Goethe’s) playful irony at it’s best…

  19. Anonymous [AKA "JeanValjean"] says:

    Are the French and Europeans of today ready to fight for the srvival of their countries and civilization?

    Or, are they too busy watching whatever they watch on their screens (TV, mobiles, devices) and escape from reality?

    Are they ready to kill for saving their lands from the islamic invasions organized by their corrupted politicians and corporations?

    Are they ready to die for their way of life and cultures rather than submitting as they don now en masse?

    Are they still enough aware or are most of us already dead zombies ready to perish like in decadent Rome?

  20. …the delicacy of “stone made into lace” (in the words of Jean-Yves Le Gallou)…

    Lace made into stone.


    • Replies: @NoseytheDuke
  21. Maciano says:

    “My heart has already been broken. I have already wept for this.””

    My feelings exactly.

    Yet, the future remains. Nothing is destined to be over.

  22. @Felix Krull

    Nope, or non if you prefer.

  23. alexander says:

    Isn’t that putting the cart before the horse, Nosey ?

    This was one of the supreme monuments in all of human history.

    The highest priority of the French government should be the most thorough fire investigation ever conducted….in order to determine CAUSE..not “motive”….

    If it was a “horrible accident”….what was the cause of it ?, how did it occur ?, and what are the steps needed to insure it doesn’t happen again ?.

    “Not knowing” makes a fools errand out of any attempt to rebuild….Doesn’t it ?

  24. Alden says:
    @Endgame Napoleon

    1230s King Louis 9 commissioned the church of St Chapelle and it’s innovative more window than wall and stained glass architecture Then Francois 1 and Da Vinci early 1500s. Later French Queen Marie de Medici was the major patron of Peter Paul Rueben.

    The French government and art go back to Clovis

  25. Passerby says:

    The thing is that some identities are worth being preserved. That is the case of traditional, catholic France, for example.

    Others identities like probably your African or whatever one, are nothing to write home about. They could disappear into oblivion and nobody would even notice.

    Not everything is equal.

Current Commenter

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone

 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments have been licensed to The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Commenting Disabled While in Translation Mode
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Guillaume Durocher Comments via RSS
Becker update V1.3.2
The Surprising Elements of Talmudic Judaism
The Shaping Event of Our Modern World
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.