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Notre Dame burns

Apr 17, 2019 by

Admirers of Western Civilisation and its art would likely agree with Kenneth Clark’s appraisal of Notre Dame as “not perhaps the most lovable of cathedrals”. Like many, he preferred Chartres and Canterbury, but it was with Notre Dame in the background that he introduced his landmark series Civilisation:

What is civilisation? I do not know. I can’t define it in abstract terms –yet. But I think I can recognise it when I see it: and I am looking at it now. Ruskin said: “Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts, the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others, but of the three the only trustworthy one is the last.”

On the whole I think this is true. Writers and politicians may come out with all sorts of edifying sentiments, but they are what is known as declarations of intent. If I had to say which was telling the truth about society, a speech by a Minister of Housing or the actual buildings put up in his time, I should believe the buildings.

Today, the news from Paris is almost beyond belief: almost nine hundred years after construction began, Notre Dame is, if not in ruins, close to it. The photo atop this post is what remains of the altar. Below, as it was only yesterday:

continue: Notre Dame burns – Quadrant Online

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