In France, according to the NYT, the funding situation for monuments has been desperate for years. Unlike in the U.S., France does not have the tradition of private giving. But in less than a week, private donations ($1 billion) have been pledged to help fund restoration of Notre Dame.
- The Pinault family (the main owners of the retail conglomerate Kering) promised 100 million euros
- The Arnault family (owners of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury-goods company), 200 million euros
- The Bettencourt family (owners of L’Oréal), 200 million euros
Why Private Funding Is Causing a Stir
Wealthy families have too much money is the criticism from the Left. It would be better, some argue, to give the money to the poor rather than take care of “old stone.” Yellow Vess say Mr. Macron is favoring Notre Dame, a cause dear to France’s wealthy, over steps to help France’s financially strapped working class.
The tragic reality of a bloated underfunded, inefficient bureaucracy is that Notre Dame’s years of neglect should serve as red flag to the countless other deteriorating treasures throughout France.
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If the fire really was an accident, it is almost impossible to explain how it started. Benjamin Mouton, Notre Dame’s former chief architect, explained that the rules were exceptionally strict and that no electric cable or appliance, and no source of heat, could be placed in the attic. He added that an extremely sophisticated alarm system was in place.
The company that installed the scaffolding did not use any welding and specialized in this type of work. The fire broke out more than an hour after the workers’ departure and none of them was present. It spread so quickly that the firefighters who rushed to the spot as soon as they could get there were shocked. Remi Fromont, the chief architect of the French Historical Monuments said: “The fire could not start from any element present where it started. A real calorific load is necessary to launch such a disaster”.
For months, jihadist organizations have been issuing statements calling for the destruction of churches and Christian monuments in Europe. Notre Dame was repeatedly named as a primary target. Despite all that, the Cathedral was not adequately protected. A couple of young men, who entered the Cathedral at night, climbed on the roof last November and shot a video that they then put on YouTube.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who had never even mentioned the attacks on Saint Denis or Saint Sulpice, quickly went to Notre Dame and declared, “Notre Dame is our history, our literature, our imagination.” He totally left out cathedral’s religious dimension.
Macron Ignores Notre Dame’s Religious Depth
Macron strangely added that the cathedral would be “more beautiful” than before—as if a badly damaged monument could be more beautiful after restoration. Macron went on to say that the reconstruction would be a “contemporary architectural gesture.” The remark raised concern, if not panic, among defenders of historic monuments, who now fear that he may want to add modern architectural elements to a jewel of Gothic architecture. Again, he totally left out the cathedral’s religious dimension.
The results of French secularism are visible. Christianity has been almost completely wiped out from public life. Churches are empty. The number of priests is decreasing and the priests that are active in France are either very old or come from Africa or Latin America.
L’islam, Premiere Religion en France?
The dominant religion in France is now Islam. Every year, churches are demolished to make way for parking lots or shopping centers. Mosques are being built all over, and they are full. Radical imams proselytize. The murder, three years ago, of Jacques Hamel, an 85-year-old priest who was slaughtered by two Islamists while he was saying mass in a church where only five people (three of them old nuns) were present, is telling.
Some hope that the sight of the destroyed cathedral will inspire many French people to follow the example of those who prayed on the night of the disaster. Michel Aupetit, Archbishop of Paris, said on April 17, two days after the fire, that he was sure France would know a “spiritual awakening”.
But others are not as optimistic. They see the ashes of the Cathedral as a symbol of the destruction of Christianity in France.
Art historian Jean Clair sees in the destruction of Notre Dame an additional sign of an “irreversible decadence” of France, and of the final collapse of the Judeo-Christian roots of Europe.
Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.
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