Terrible and symbolic hours, various historical, frightening spectacle for anyone who loves a little history of France. It is the heart of a country that burns before the eyes of millions and millions of earthlings who wandered in the nave, tourists impressed by the aerial solemnity of the places, under the nerve warheads, stained glass windows in technicolor, among the venerable pillars and chapels with innumerable mysteries. Paris burns? Metaphorically, yes. A thick smoke crowns a theater as tormented as this implacable fire, so difficult to contain.
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This frame in flames supported a hieratic roof and a proud arrow, but also a good part of the French identity, where are jostling memories of school and legend, those of Charles VII and Joan of Arc, Henri IV and Bossuet, the Revolution and the two Bonaparte, the Liberation, Claudel, Marshal and General and especially, in popular culture, Quasimodo, Frollo and Esmeralda, the heroes of Hugo's novel, paper monument that has increased tenfold the glory of the stone monument.
The marriage of Henri de Navarre, future Henri IV, and Marguerite de Valois, the "Queen Margot", in August 1572, on an engraving of the XIXe century. (Tallandier, BRIDGEMAN)
Notre-Dame de Paris, as with the great Victor, is first the cruel and abundant Middle Ages, unjustly despised, rehabilitated by historians, acclaimed by the public, with his imperious faith to fanaticism, his bloody intrigues to the Game Of Thrones, his misery and his massacres which cast doubt on Heaven. The fame of the stone vessel made it the great popular center of the capital. On the island of the City where Lutetia stood, the hierarchs of the Church in power without limit raise this offer of stone to their God who reigns over Europe. From west to east, turned towards Jerusalem like so many cathedrals, two massive towers, a colossal nave, a transept with rosettes of light, a choir like a bow in the Seine, and an arrow that scrapes the clouds dominate Christian Paris and embody the unanswerable strength of Catholicism. Fragile hovels and a people accustomed to misfortune who live hard in the shadow of gargoyles and stately saints, protected by relics with magical powers, including the crown of thorns of Christ deposited there by Saint-Louis, are crowded around. The cathedral welcomes the believers, the bourgeois, the lords, but also the reprobates, the excluded, the poor, between its walls that are thought to be livid because the original frescoes, with its gleaming and golden colors, have been erased by the time and never restored in a time when it is believed that religion was inherently austere.
In this living museum, major events followed one another in tight rows, punctuating the history of the textbooks of the Republic. In war with the Pope, Philip the Fair holds the first States General of the kingdom; during the Hundred Years' War, Charles VI, child-king of France and England, was crowned there, as will be done for Mary Stuart. Recovering his invaded kingdom, Charles VII celebrates the return of his capital to the English and the Burgundians, by a Te Deum, The first of a long series. It also brings together the ecclesiastical tribunal to rehabilitate Joan of Arc burned in Rouen. Queen Margot marries Henry of Navarre, the leader of the Huguenots who remains on the square during the ceremony, six days before the marriage of reconciliation become a purple wedding with the massacre of St. Bartholomew. One again Te Deum for the marriage of Louis XIV, and a majestic peroration of Bossuet for the death of the Grand Conde.
Napoleon consecrated himself emperor in the same place, immortalized by David, taking the crown from the hands of the pope to put it on his head, then to crown Josephine in his turn. His nephew Napoleon III married the Empress, then baptized the Prince Imperial. In the meantime, the Revolution turned the cathedral into a "temple of Reason" in the ephemeral history, in a vain attempt at dechristianization, when the churches were turned into granaries and the bells were made to make guns.
Photo published in the newspaper Excelsior for the celebration of Te Deum, November 17, 1918. (Photo Roger-Viollet)
Dark emotions of faith
During the Occupation, dark hours: Marshal Pétain, acclaimed by the Parisians in April 1944, was solemnly welcomed by Cardinal Suhard. Bright hours: the liberation of Paris begins near the forecourt with the revolt of the police headquarters, continues with the arrival at a stone's throw, in front of the City Hall, August 24, 1944, armored Captain Dronne mounted by Spanish republicans, and finds its apotheosis with the Te Deum and the Marseillaise played full game by the organ of the cathedral in the presence of General de Gaulle surrounded by the leaders of Free France and the Resistance. At the moment of entering, shooters from the roofs are targeting the crowd and, it is said, the General is one of the only ones who remains standing, before slowly entering the nave.
It is still in Notre-Dame, behind a pillar, he says, that Claudel embraces the faith, that we celebrate the national homage to Charles de Gaulle, Georges Pompidou and François Mitterrand, who preferred Saint-Denis and his recumbent . It is still there that we honor the abbot Pierre, Sister Emmanuelle, that the writer of extreme right Dominique Venner commits suicide, and that one collects itself after the attacks of November 2015.
Our Lady for history, therefore, the most imposing and the most traditional. But also Our Lady for the people. Victor Hugo describes the dark emotions of the faith, but especially the popular exuberance which animated the court and even the nave, where pressed the craftsmen, the wool-pullers, the porters and the prostitutes, where the Romance Esmeralda, where was suffering Quasimodo, who lived in the dark heights of the frame that has just burned. Before him, Eugene Sue had started in the Ile de la Cité, at the time the poorest district of the capital, his Mysteries of Paris, first major report fictionalized on the misery of the forgotten, their humanity and their dignity. And finally, a musical stucco, woven of easy melodies, would carry everywhere in the world the glory of this monument which concentrates in him the magnitudes of a mythical past but also the very human trials of a devout or revolted people.