Incident report

A week has passed since the fire in, or on, Notre Dame de Paris; let me be the last to comment on a story that is stale-dated by any meejah standard. It dominated international mindwaves for only two days, but left images that viewers may be able to recall many decades from now.

“The church is on fire,” is a commonplace thought, when a church is visibly on fire, and I who am commonplace was thinking that while turning to the news. As an old meejah hack, who happens to know a little about Gothic architecture, I was prepared to discount the “fake news” that would be disseminated in “live time.” For instance, when told that the roof had collapsed, with strong hints that the building was now a write-off, I reflected that the roof is a hat, only. Stone vaulting lies underneath it, except the circle much of the spire fell through (as burnt offering onto the altar). Stone doesn’t burn easily; and even fallen vaulting can be repaired, having been erected with technology we would consider primitive (if ingenious) today.

A spectacle: to see the ancient oak timbers, of great girth, burning up like matchsticks. But the craft masons of Notre Dame — far, far in advance of our modern Lego builders — expected fire and lived in a time so simple that they knew oak doesn’t burn without help. It isn’t big matchsticks. The idea that you need some serious accelerants to make it burn, and that only the accelerants would flame like that, was among my initial thoughts. We’ll see what comes of investigations. I also recalled two recent attempts to torch the cathedral, associated with terrorism. And that more than one thousand churches have been desecrated in France in the last year (and five hundred synagogues, and one hundred mosques).

Instead, the explanation of a clumsy accident by restoration workers was immediately accepted by the talking heads, and even Fox News hung up on a guest who had another theory. In favour of the politically correct, plausible account, for which no evidence was being offered, I learnt that a fire alarm had sounded 23 minutes before the blaze itself was first spotted. Paradoxically, this would show the ruinous consequences of depending exclusively on modern technology: the computers directed the first responders to the wrong place, away from the actual heat source.

I can easily believe in electrical short circuits as a fire hazard, especially since having had myself to flee a building where a cost-cutting landlord was having an elevator repaired by what I characterized as “a Romanian comedy team.” (They buzz-sawed through a live electrical cable, then themselves fled the scene of their handiwork as smoke shot up the shaft and spread through the building. Luckily this smoke warned all tenants to evacuate; the building’s fire buzzer alone would have been taken by everyone as yet another false alarm.)


“Things happen,” according to public lore; and even in the case of terror, such as the horrific strikes in Sri Lanka for Easter yesterday, I’m against keeping score. I noted that the police commander in Colombo had warned that a specific Muslim faction was planning just such a “thing,” days before it happened, and I have noticed that of the ten thousands of terrorist incidents through the last generation, a statistically anomalous proportion were performed by Muslim factions, but these are just facts. One needs to keep a cool head, not to be provoked into foolish retaliations.

War is war. But to win, one needs clarity, solid discipline, and courage. Weapons help, too. Inane, misdirected propaganda, and general hysteria, focused by scoundrels this way and that, are of more use to the enemy. Wrath is a moral substance that needs to be carefully applied. But God did create it for a purpose, as He did the other tools of victory over evil.


I am exhausted by the misdirected propaganda over Notre Dame — about its “artistic” value, its “symbolism” of France, its long history, the draw for tourists, &c. (When I last went in, more than twenty years ago, the slobbering tourists already outnumbered the faithful at prayer, by a large margin.)

All the most precious sacred artefacts were saved; humped over to the Louvre for care by experts. Much more physical damage was done to the irreplaceable art treasures of this church by the Huguenots of the Reformation, and the Atheists of the French Revolution.

God bless the firemen’s chaplain who rescued the Host from the tabernacle: the most valuable item in that Temple. To non-Catholics, it would be a dangerous waste of time.

Worse, aesthetically, will likely follow last week’s disaster, now that President Macron has invited the masturbatory elites of the fashion world to design a new spire, and install other disharmonies, to make the State-appropriated cathedral “more beautiful than ever.” The unity of the building, founded in sacred not profane vision, will be lost to assuage various modernist, anti-Christian, multicultural interests. The result is likely to be as vile as the self-promoting perpetrators.

But even the most sacred chalice can be lost. As Abbot Suger, the creative genius at the foundation of the Gothic style, explained plainly, all these objects have their significance in service to the Holy Eucharist — which is Christ. So far as they do not, they are just baubles.

To the genuine artist, the value of art is in what it is and what it does — how it acts on the human soul — not what it might be worth in the art market. This, if I may be so indirect, is at the sacred heart of beauty’s indivisibility.


Returning full circle to what we saw, projected on the world’s electronic screens just one week ago, I will tell you what I really saw. It was an image of our Church, on fire. Not from the bottom, but from the top. Those were the flames that corresponded to the “smoke of Satan” that Pope Paul VI saw entering the Church a half century ago, at the liturgical height of “the spirit of Vatican II.” And in Paris, the very mitre ablaze, falling through the hole it had made by its burning.

The spiritual task of rebuilding our Church and our civilization will not take the five years Macron specified. The time frame I have in mind is many centuries.