Notre Dame and the Death of Europe

A magnificent cathedral in Paris that stood for over 800 years, and even survived the Second World War, is now basically no more – consumed by flames. As the news breaks, we do know what a devastating loss this has been. Perhaps some of it however can be saved – we shall see. As one news item states:

Thousands of Parisians watched in horror from behind police cordons as a ferocious blaze devastated Notre Dame Cathedral, destroying its spire and a large part of the roof. Firefighters battled to contain the fire, which began at around 6pm on Monday. An investigation has been opened by the prosecutor’s office, but police said it began accidentally and may be linked to building work at the cathedral. The 850-year-old gothic masterpiece had been undergoing restoration work.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, attended the scene and later gave a speech in which he vowed that the cathedral would be rebuilt, as fire crews said the landmark’s rectangular bell towers and structure of the building had been saved. Macron said “the worst had been avoided” thanks to hundreds of brave firefighters who battled for hours and who would continue working through the night. One firefighter was severely injured but no other casualties were reported.

It is still early days so we do not know all the reasons for this tragic loss. Was it accidental? Was it arson? Was it another terrorist attack? This too will become more clear as time goes on I trust. But in the meantime it is such a tragic loss.

Given that my wife and I lived in Europe for five years, she quickly shared the bad news about this with me this morning. But then she came back a bit later – after listening to radio reports – to say that there might be a bit of hope after all, with crowds of Parisians gathering on the streets, singing hymns. Check out this moving video:

Yes maybe this is what it will take to wake up a sleepy church and encourage Christians to stop being so apathetic about what has been happening for so many years now. Maybe believers there will finally be stirred out of their slumber and realise that war has been declared on them and their faith. We will see.

As mentioned, hopefully we will learn many more details in the hours and days to come about the actual cause of this terrible inferno. But what we do know is France in particular and Europe in general has had a whole set of massive problems in this area. Attacks on churches have now become routine, including arson attacks.

One news item has this to say:

A spate of thefts and vandalism in French churches has led to calls for the government to act. Recent incidents have included a fire in Saint-Sulpice church in Paris, human excrement smeared on the wall in Notre-Dame-des-Enfants church in Nîmes, southern France, and vandalism of the organ at Saint-Denis basilica outside Paris, where all but three of France’s kings are buried.

Opposition politicians have said that the country’s Christian heritage is being threatened by petty criminals encouraged by militant secularism. Critics say the issue is being ignored in a society over which Catholicism has lost the hold it had for centuries. Figures released by French police showed that 875 of France’s 42,258 churches were vandalised last year. Thefts were reported in a further 129.

Another report puts it this way:

While Notre Dame is undoubtedly the most well-known landmark to be affected, Paris’ second largest church, Saint-Sulpice, briefly burst into flames on March 17, the fire damaging doors and stained glass windows on the building’s exterior. Police later reported that the incident had not been an accident….

February saw a series of such attacks across France. In one incident, a cross of human excrement was smeared on the wall of the Notre Dame des Enfants in Nimes, the vandals also looting the church and spreading consecrated wafers in the garbage. The same month, the altar at Saint-Alain Cathedral in Lavaur was set on fire, while statues and crosses were smashed throughout the premises. Two teenagers were later arrested in relation to the incident.

In another incident on February 4, a statue of the Virgin Mary was found smashed on the ground at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Houilles, Yvelines. Just days later, the Eucharist was scattered and the altar cloth soiled at Church of Notre Dame de Dijon.

And one more report:

A dozen Catholic churches have been desecrated across France over the period of one week in an egregious case of anti-Christian vandalism. The recent spate of church profanations has puzzled both police and ecclesiastical leaders, who have mostly remained silent as the violations have spread up and down France.

Last Sunday, marauders set fire to the church of Saint-Sulpice — one of Paris’ largest and most important churches — shortly after the twelve-o’clock Mass. Police have concluded that the fire was the result of arson and are now looking for possible suspects. The restoration of the church from the damage caused by the fire will reportedly cost several hundred million euros.

In Nimes (department of the Gard), near the border with Spain, the church of Notre-Dame des Enfants was desecrated in a particularly odious way, with vandals painting a cross with human excrement, looting the main altar and the tabernacle, and stealing the consecrated hosts, which were discovered later among piles of garbage. Likewise, the church of Notre-Dame in Dijon, in the east of the country, suffered the sacking of the high altar and the hosts were also taken from the tabernacle, scattered on the ground, and trampled….

And this from several years ago:

Police believe that the jihadist cell responsible for the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils that left 14 dead and more than 100 injured were originally planning something much bigger involving Barcelona’s most emblematic tourist sites. The terrorists planned to inflict as much carnage as possible by driving vans packed with explosives into three of the city’s busiest tourist areas, according to a report in Spanish online newspaper El Español on Saturday. The newspaper cites police sources with information that one of the targets was Gaudi’s as yet unfinished masterpiece, the towering basilica of the Sagrada Familia.

As I say, we will hopefully soon learn more about the causes of the Notre Dame fire. Let’s just say that maybe it was an accident. Perhaps unlikely, but let’s run with that scenario. But we have all the other attacks on churches to account for.

We do know from 1400 years of Islamic history that Christians and churches have both fared rather poorly indeed with millions of Christians killed and who knows how many Christian churches destroyed. With massive immigration and effectively open borders in many European countries, along with failed multiculturalism policies including cluelessness about the political ideology of Islam, all this is just a ticking time bomb.

When the horrific Christchurch shooting took place, the New Zealand leader and others around the world did all they could to express solidarity with the victims, including wearing head coverings and having Muslims pray in Parliament. One wonders if the favours will now be returned.

Will there be mass marches of concerned Muslims on the streets of Paris and other capital cities in Europe demanding an end to the violence against churches? Will Macron and other European leaders all start wearing Christian crosses in solidarity with the French Christians?

Will Muslims also wear crosses to show their support for their grieving Christian friends? Hmm, I won’t hold my breath on any of these things. But it does seem that some Muslims at least have already been rejoicing over the Notre Dame blaze, just as some Muslims danced in the streets after 9/11.

Other commentary on all this is coming forth at a rapid rate. Let me close with just one such piece:

This is a disaster for Paris and for France, for French history, and for French Catholics. It is a grave loss for the history of Western civilization, and for future generations who, like me, will never see the cathedral’s glorious rose windows or the grandeur of her magnificent spires.

But first and foremost, it is a tragedy for the Catholic Church, whose members are already suffering in so many places. To many Catholics, it feels as if the Church is on fire in a sense already. And now we are watching it blaze. Though Notre Dame de Paris is a testament to world history, to art, to architecture, and to centuries of civilization, above all she is — was — a place of inestimable beauty dedicated to God. The cathedral’s Gothic arches pointed heavenward not for their own sake, not to glorify their creator, but to direct the eye to Him. It was a house of worship, a home for His Presence. That is the loss Catholics mourn this afternoon.

Watching this holy place slowly collapse at the start of Holy Week — which will culminate in the commemoration of Jesus’s passion, death, and resurrection — is of undeniable significance. Notre Dame has fallen, the way everything in the earthly city must. She will not rise from these ashes as she was. Catholics take comfort in the belief that our Church will stand firm.

As Easter approaches, please keep the people of Paris in your prayers. Pray for both comfort for the grieving believers there, and for protection against any more such episodes. We live in very alarming times.

[1589 words]

32 Replies to “Notre Dame and the Death of Europe”

  1. Deep sorrow afflicts me for this appalling loss. Millions of hours of work by the original medieval artists and craftsmen have been vapourised. My wife and I were there just a few years ago and exulted in its beauty and sanctity. But it *will* be re-built. Of that I am certain.

  2. Wow, what a blow to so many people. Both Catholics and many others will mourn the loss of this magnificent building. It is certain that it had a “life” of its own quite apart from all of its Christian connections.
    One of the first things that I noticed on my phone google news feed was the way Macron was being very messianic about this. “I will raise it in three days” could almost be heard echoing again from the centuries of history.
    I will restrain myself from commenting on what my imagination suggests as a possible cause for the fire.

  3. The Vatican said: “The Holy See has seen with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a symbol of Christianity in France and in the world.”

    the devastation ? “a symbol of Christianity in France and in the world.”

    Sad, but true.

  4. Regarding Philip Impey’s statement and your response, Bill, totally “right on.” Now I have already heard of few wisenheimers going on about if Christianity were true, would not God have prevented this. Somehow they’ve managed to conveniently miss the part where Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against the church. This much like when Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” All is not always what it may appear to the secular, unbelieving world.

  5. So wonderful to see Parisians in the streets singing hymns.

    God’s protection was evident in how He saved His Son’s priceless Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross and one of the Holy Nails from the blaze.

    The President Mr. Macron has vowed that France “together” will rebuild this house of worship important to all Christians, named after the Blessed Virgin Mary.

    Maybe this is a sign France will become a Catholic nation again.

    Maybe Mr. Macron will personally rediscover the faith of his fathers and become a practicing Catholic.

    “With God all things are possible”. [Matthew 19:26]

  6. Yes, I’m either becoming a cynic in my older years or maybe I’m still a realist. This will likely be blamed as an “electrical fault” or similar even if evidence shows different. Our Islamic “friends” have been very productive in their burning down of churches throughout France, some in Germany and else were. There has been a number of “mysterious” church fires in NSW and S/Aust over the past few years which have not been found to attribute to anything in particular. Islam conquers through violent attacks and subjugation. Churches throughout the world are being bought up and converted to Mosques as a form of conquer. Likewise Churches are being burned as a sign of subjugation.

  7. Notre Dame: An Omen

    The symbolism of the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral, the most renowned building in Western civilization, the iconic symbol of Western Christendom, is hard to miss. It is as if God Himself wanted to warn us in the most unmistakable way that Western Christianity is burning — and with it, Western civilization. Every major Western (and one major non-Western) social and intellectual force has conspired to rid Europe of Christianity and the civilization it produced.

  8. Dear Carlos,

    If it was a Muslim arsonist, it has backfired badly.

    Believers and non-believers from all over France and all around the world are in solidarity with Catholics over the loss of this divinely inspired treasure.

    It is not quite the reaction to Christchurch, but it’s a nice change from being constantly attacked, mocked and ridiculed.

  9. Dear Bill, Thank you for the article and all the information about the desecration of Churches in France.

    I have been to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris twice. The last time as a Christian pilgrim six years ago.It was so sad to see such a magnificent Church building go up in flames. I say Church building because I know the Church is really the people of God not just buildings although this one, like many others across Europe, was built to the Glory of God.

    Notre Dame was desecrated and blasphemed before I understand during the French revolution when they rode horses into it and the Goddess of Reason was crowned on the High Altar.

    Sadly we may never know the truth about who if anybody was responsible because the French government will be very careful about turning any minority group into scapegoats as the French can be very militant and destructive when they are angry. We only have to look at the yellow vest demonstrations. However, there is nothing to stop us from wondering with good reason who really is responsible and drawing our own conclusions.

    Maybe this tragedy will make the French think about their Christian heritage more and how France was once the big sister of the Catholic church. Hopefully many who have not been faithful to their heritage will return and be more active in defending it. If this happens some good will come out of this tragedy.

    I also wonder like John above if it is a symbol of the Wrath of God. After all God has used fire before to teach us what we ought to know.

  10. The news about the fire in Notre Dame came up on my news feed last night just before I was about to go into sleep time.

    The channel the news popped up on was on the link below. Listen to what this commentator says and the distress in his voice then you may need to pinch yourself as this man is a self-proclaimed atheist.

    I left the following comment on his threads as I know a lot of sensible atheists watch his channel-
    “Notre Dame survived everything over hundreds of years, but it couldn’t survive in leftism. Godless societies do not need Buildings like Notre Dame; they need abortion centres, large government buildings and printing presses to print money they do not have. The west has been governed by traitors and misfits for too long. Hopelessness happens when God moves out of your country and the beautiful burns as it doesn’t want to exist in godlessness, and believe me even the most atheistic amongst you will not want to either”.?

    I am hoping to be challenged by some of the more aggressive atheists on his thread as it will allow me to speak not only to the god haters but the godless too. We should all be hitting the secular channels on youtube with a post similar to mine above as the above message to them speaks their language, but hopefully will allow us to speak ours to them.

    France, in truth, didn’t deserve that beautiful cathedral, neither did the devout Catholics, since to have such a building you do not just maintain it from the inside with the expectation it will remain standing, but you need to ensure it exists in Christendom, placed where it may flourish by causing flourishing. The French have been watching Christendom die at the hands of godlessness. They have become the statues they worshipped sadly; we are no better btw. I pray that Notre Dame remains a pile of burn ‘what was’ since the godless got what they wanted and they need to see what they wanted looks like, and the Christians need to have a constant reminder of their failings. I know this will infuriate many on here, but I would ask you this before judging me harshly, do you lament the loss of beauty that was Notre Dame more than you lament the loss of Christendom from France?

    It is a sombre day, not because of the loss of stunning beauty, but because the beauty will be missed more than the God who inspired its gift to us.

  11. Dear Bill, Thank you for your article. I first became aware of this tragedy via my son-in-law – a French national- he was very upset, and is a practising Christian living in Australia.
    I am like you Bill, doubtful truth will emerge as to the real cause. But we all live in hope?
    God Bless you & your readers
    Mark Bryant

  12. I still can’t handle Macron’s statement.

    “Notre Dame is our history, our literature, part of our psyche, the place of all our great events, our epidemics, our wars, our liberations, the epicentre of our lives … So I solemnly say tonight: we will rebuild it together.” from the Guardian.

    “The epicentre of our lives” pssffftt.
    It wasn’t the day before yesterday.
    It won’t be for a long time…..
    Macron might be there if the building is restored, ..on the day it is re-opened.
    To wave his arms around so that we can all agree with him “what a good boy am I”.

  13. Hi Bill
    As a Christian who dedicated my life to Christ some 42 ago I have seen with sadness and frustration the demise of the church in the West. Whilst it is too early to lay blame whether it was an Islamic attack I see that being irrelevant. You rightly stated in previous articles that the West has capitulated to the spread of Islam.
    I have experienced this on two occasions.
    Once in North Sumatra Indonesia in 2004 when my brother, a Christian Pastor and I were in a church when the Islamists planted a bomb to prevent my brother from preaching the gospel. Fortunately the members found and disarmed the device.
    We were there to secure a parcel of land to build an orphanage. Fast forward to 2019 and we now have an orphanage with 70 children, a primary school with 350 children and a junior high school accommodating 70 children. All founded on Christian principles.
    We also had a team of 6 doctors, nurses and support staff conducting nearly 1000 examinations to the orphans and surrounding villages, all donated by one of the largest Christian Churches in Singapore.
    On the other occasion I was booked into a hotel in the World Trade Center on September the 10th, 2001.
    Fortunately I was not there on the 11th but watched the traumatic events of 3500 souls perishing. It was noted that church attendance greatly increased following that event but it proved to be a temporary situation as Christianity is now on the decline in the US.
    I see the same happening in Paris. Many will flock to church services but I still see a decline unless peoples hearts cry out to God and sincerely repent and seek Him wholeheartedly.
    What I do see however is a continuation of revival in the persecuted countries while the West continues in decline.

  14. How could the fire get out of control so quickly? Don’t they have security guards, fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems? The first-quoted article above makes it sound like the police cordons were set up to stop ordinary people from helping to put out the fire.

    Why didn’t the other vandalised churches have security cameras, guards, etc.? Perhaps they could have locked their doors…

    What a great pity, that people throughout the ages have felt the need to put up these structures. Church buildings just become a bottomless pit that swallows money, better spent on feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. Jesus never told anyone to build any such buildings — not in his earthly ministry, nor through Paul, his apostle to us Gentiles.

    Even when Israel had the temple, there was only ever the one temple; and God showed us by tearing the veil, that temples are no longer required, because of Christ’s sacrifice, once, and for all.

  15. My first response was shock and sadness, followed by suspicion when I heard the feeble responses of the authorities to the question “what happened”. To those on the long march through the institutions this would be a triumph, likewise those who are at war with Christianity. I wouldn’t be surprised if the architects of the new world order were not covertly jumping for joy despite mouthing platitudes about rebuilding. Let’s hope that at the very least this was indeed a tragic accident and that Notre Dame’s iconic beauty can be restored somehow in our cynical era.

  16. Bill, this was an excellent article as always. I specially agree with your comments about the response to Christchurch and whether Muslims well reciprocate in this matter, like you I won’t hold my breath.

    However I do find some difficulty in crying over the buildings loss on account of the fact that the Roman Catholic Church for centuries has been the persecutor of Christians and even today most of their doctrines have not changed. All the major teachings of the Roman Church are in stark contrast with the teachings of Jesus. In my opinion the Roman Catholic Church no more represents true Christianity than the Mormon church or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. All the human family should be loved as those for whom Christ died and led if possible, into a knowledge of his love.
    I do appreciate the beauty of this gothic building and mourn its destruction as I also did when I saw the destruction of some beautiful buildings in Christchurch after the earthquake when we visited just a year after the event.

  17. Doesn’t Notre Dame mean Our Lady – how does that glorify God?
    An incredible building, no doubt, but one that glorifies Mary !! – a mere mortal.
    It is Jesus that delivers us from our sinful condition, not a grand structure or his mother.

  18. Regarding the Parisians gathering on the streets singing hymns, my understanding from other reading is that they were singing Ave Maria. Those who are not Roman Catholic are likely to see that as troubling since God not Mary merits our worship.

    (This might be a bit more of a sectarian comment than you want posted on your site.)

  19. It could have been anybody that started the fire, maybe we will never know…….. but in it all,,, Maybe God is speaking to Christians everywhere, God doesn’t seem to be in the Churches anymore He’s been put outside & the Cross that didn’t burn , we should never put our confidences and superstitions in Crosses and Religious Medals.

  20. Dear Paul,

    Why would Almighty God punish a godless nation by burning the greatest symbol to His Power that exists in that land?

  21. Thanks Michael. The answer to your question is pretty easy to come by for those who are familiar with their Bibles. It may be a symbol of (former) spiritual glory in France, but it is still just a symbol. God is not ultimately found in a building – no matter how magnificent it may be – but in the human heart. As Stephen said before he was stoned to death by the Jews, “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands” (Acts 7:48).

    And when a people basically turn against God (the people of France may be mainly nominally Catholic but they are overwhelmingly secular and ungodly), God has every right to judge the people. So is it inconceivable that God would strike such a building as this? Not at all. After all, he did it before on various occasions.

    Consider the temple in the Old Testament (the erection of which was originally God’s own idea). When sin was too great and persistent among the people of Israel, the presence of God left the temple (Ezekiel 10), and eventually it was destroyed by the Babylonians as part of God’s judgment (2 Kings 25). And when the Jews rejected the Messiah, he allowed it to be to be destroyed again – this time by the Romans (Matthew 24).

    So there is no problem here with seeing that this might be part of God’s judgment on human sin and ungodly nations. And if arson or terrorism was involved, that does not excuse them and their actions, just as the Babylonians were not excused for what they did, even though the were used by God for that very purpose of judgment.

  22. Thanks Bill. Also judgment starts in the house of god so what better place than a church (and national symbol)?? and in addition to the temple (which itself was almost a idol – remember blaspheming against Moses and the temple seemed a worse offense than blaspheming against God at least in the order of listing) God has removed things in the past that while starting godly had ended up becoming revered in and of themselves and not because of God. Think of the bronze serpent a gift from God to help in the desert but ended up being worshipped and had to be destroyed. How many relics exist today that are practically worshipped by the “faithful” and are more important to them the the bible??? Many so called christians would be more concerned with their destruction than with the destruction of christianity. Think how relieved everyone there was that the crown of thorns was saved.

  23. So God judged the Jews for their sins including rejecting His Son and destroyed the Temple, and the punishment lasted 1878 years, and the French are now being judged by God?

    Ok but Archbishop Michel Aupetit isn’t Ananus ben Ananus or Phannias ben Samuel. He is a conservative who shares 99% of your positions on important issue of culture and theology. So then is it the Holy Relics (which were in fact saved from the fire) that earned God’s wrath?

    I’m genuinely trying to understand what you guys are saying here.

  24. Thanks Michael. I did not think this was too hard to understand. I have already established that mere buildings do not necessarily mean a hill of beans to God. That much is perfectly clear according to Scripture. What matters is people and what is in their hearts. France has long ago jettisoned any Christian heritage it may have had, as have other European nations. Right now Europe is the most secular and ungodly continent on earth. It is of course ripe for God’s judgment. And God looks at a nation not just through one person, but judges it in its entirety – looking at all the people. When God judged Israel there were of course some true and obedient Israelites still around. And France is much more than just one Archbishop, and will be judged accordingly. Bear in mind it was not I who said the fire was definitely God’s judgment. And Paul simply said he had a “feeling” about it, although I can only speak for myself here. The point is I cannot say if it was or was not part of his judgment. All I was doing here was replying to your earlier remark about a symbolic building. Simply having one neat building or one good Archbishop is no reason to doubt a nation like France is long overdue for possible divine judgment.

  25. It is the godlessness and anti-God (truly secular religiously neutral – it neither promotes or attacks religion so I wouldn’t consider todays culture in Europe OR America to be secular) culture there that is bringing wrath not to mention their aqcuesiong to a false god. I would wager a good bet that muslims will be at the reopening of the cathedral. and imams will offer prayers.

    Yes it is a feeling. do I think the feeling is from God? Yes. Would I say ‘thus saith the lord’ or put the feeling on par with scripture? NO!

    Yes I am aware they saved the relics (through great effort) but to me that shows more of a sense of misplaced priorities and perhaps allowing them to be saved shows more of the justification for the judgment than showing his mercy.

    It rains on the just and unjust alike so yes sometimes true believers feel the effects of judgment but that doesn’t mean it isn’t judgment. Just as many good christian people worked in, and died in, the twin towers on 9/11 because they were a visible symbol of America it was an apt place for judgment (and like then the people’s first thought isn’t to reflect on things but to REBUILD). I am glad to hear that about the archbishop but God always has a remnant amount the apostate (I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the levites who worked in the temple were faithful Jews).

    Also God is long-suffering so while maybe some us would have started judgment on France (and Europe) a while back he has been and is giving as much time as possible to them to repent and return.

    I sometimes joke it is a good thing I am not God I would have smited this world years ago. (probably every 50 years I would reign down hellfire).

  26. What needs to be recognised – and is not always easy to do so from an Australian or American perspective – is that anti-Christian, especially anti-Catholic, hostility has been almost universal amongst the urban working classes of Europe ever since they first formed. It has been stronger still amongst the ever-growing class of welfare recipients in Europe ever since their welfare states developed after World War I, although the roots of the modern European welfare state goes back to Bismarck in the middle 1870s.

    Class envy, as Carlos Botero and his associates show in their 2016 paper ‘Cooperation facilitates the colonization of harsh environments’, is naturally extremely strong in the benign environment of Europe. (This is why no civilisation ever originated poleward of the main jet streams: the natural individualism and egalitarianism precludes such in situ civilisation). In the dense urban environment, this tendency towards resentment of the rich is increased because they lie in fuller view of the poor. This, I think, explains the origin of Marxism where and when it occurred, and its ability to rapidly defeat traditional Christianity amongst Europe‘s urban lower classes.

    For about a century, this powerful atheist current was opposed strongly by a traditional Catholic current amongst the ruling classes and the rural peasantry. However, as Europe’s comparative disadvantage in agriculture increased via new technology allowing efficient production on vastly poorer soils in lower latitudes (Australia, Africa, Brazil), Christianity lost decisively to atheism during the 1960s and 1970s. As the demands of each generation of welfare recipients increases, so does their hostility towards traditional beliefs that stigmatise those who do not work, and their envy of those with more wealth than themselves. This explains why there is not more sympathy towards church bombings in today’s Europe: the welfare classes do not see Muslims as enemies but as allies oppressed by an ideology being symbolically destroyed.

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