An excellent review of a book by that name from Chronicles Magazine.
“Kneeling in public remains rare in France. Even though Muslim crowds in the banlieues (suburbs) have recently taken to praying in the streets, religious display still shocks the country’s secular ethos, which prefers to severely confine religion to the private sphere.
“So, when a motley lot of tourists and locals fell on their knees in witnessing Notre-Dame’s spire and 13th century wooden roof ablaze on a spring afternoon in 2019, foreign correspondents largely failed to grasp the moment’s deep religious significance. France’s wider reaction to the fire—and the ensuing uncertainty over the cathedral’s future—revealed a paradox: A nation notorious for its public laïcité (often translated as “secularism”) and declining faith suddenly embraced its deep Catholic roots.
“Agnès Poirier’s book recounts in a dramatic fashion those grave and heady hours, as well as many other key moments in Notre-Dame’s esteemed history that have bound its fate to that of France. It is a timely reminder that under its thick layer of secularism, France remains staunchly Catholic at heart.
“Paris was Christendom’s second capital and the seat of a powerful diocese when Bishop Maurice de Sully ordered Notre-Dame built in 1160. Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, tasked with restoring it in the 1830s after the desecration wrought by the French Revolution, famously described its first three centuries of life as its “splendor” and the following three as having “obscured” that splendor. He was referring to Notre-Dame’s marked decline from the 15th century onwards, aggravated by the self-absorbed megalomania of an absolute monarchy, which began centralizing the power it had previously shared with the Church while removing itself from public accountability.
“When Louis XIV moved the royal court to Versailles in 1682, Notre-Dame became one of the last vestiges of aristocratic Paris. A new spirit would enliven the city in 1789—to Our Lady’s detriment. Although the revolution displayed a faux Catholic piety at its onset—the crowd of sans-culottes who stormed the Bastille on July 14 capped their feat with a Te Deum prayer for freer and fairer futures—a creeping atheist fervor soon replaced it. The established clergy’s long-standing privileges were abolished and a new state-sponsored priesthood was formed, leading Pope Pius VI in 1791 to officially exclude France from Christendom, thereby establishing the so-called French Schism.
“The revolutionaries even melted down Notre-Dame’s bells into cannonballs and decapitated the heads of the 28 Kings of Judah lined up on its west façade, mistaking them for French kings. Notre-Dame was turned into Le Temple de la Raison, with busts of Enlightenment philosophers lining both ends of the nave. Rationalism was France’s new religion d’état.
“Napoléon, who emerged to channel revolutionary fervor into pragmatist statecraft, knew Catholicism couldn’t be uprooted from a nation that had been so defined by it, and that for the ideals of 1789 to triumph in Catholic Europe, they had to be reconciled with the Church. On July 15, 1801, he hosted Pope Pius VII to make amends, and signed a concordat with him that restored the Church’s status. The pope was present again at Napoléon’s coronation three years later at Notre-Dame, although he likely wasn’t delighted to kneel for 90 minutes waiting for Bonaparte to crown himself after skipping communion.
“For all his smug disdain of churchly ritual, the self-proclaimed emperor had pulled off an elusive synthesis of religious and civilian power. When the Napoleonic experiment ended in 1814, Louis XVIII still felt the need to mark the restoration with a penitential Te Deum at Notre-Dame for all the revolution’s anti-religious sins.
“The cathedral’s by then decrepit state didn’t raise alarm until the 1830s, when a distinguished cadre of historians and archeologists began calling attention to the country’s severance from its medieval past. Chief among them was novelist-historian Victor Hugo, whose “Note sur la destruction des monuments en France” in 1825 set the stage for a deeper treatise in 1832, “Guerre aux démolisseurs,” (“War on the Demolishers”) which called for a halt on all demolitions of medieval landmarks and for the state to instead repair “the countless degradations and mutilations which time and men had simultaneously inflicted.” Later, Hugo published three massive, richly illustrated volumes weaving a fictional tale with the cathedral as its chief setting. We know it in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.”
Retrieved January 25, 2021 from The French Soul, in Stone | Chronicles (chroniclesmagazine.org)
Be well everyone, and pray the old school rosary in the old school way, see https://catholiceye.wordpress.com//?s=15+decade+rosary&search=Go