Monday, April 15, 2019

The Fire of Notre-Dame de Paris

The crown jewel of French Gothic architecture is burning to the ground today; the causes are as yet unknown. The spire has collapsed, and the wooden frame is likely unsalvageable. The church was nearing the end of a long restoration; a number of statues from the spire are unharmed, because they were taken down for renovation. It's unclear whether anything else will survive. The famous stained glass is certainly gone. Nobody seems to know yet whether the Crown of Thorns or anything else was evacuated.

[ADDED LATER, 3:30 pm Central Time: The current word is that in fact a great deal was evacuated, including all of the relics. Firefighters are currently focusing on trying to prevent the art at the back wall of the cathedral from being entirely destroyed.]
[ADDED LATER, 5:05pm CT: It seems that the frame was less damaged than was thought -- an astonishing thing if you've seen just how serious the fire was -- so it may be salvageable.]

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame:

Great edifices, like great mountains, are the work of ages. Art often undergoes a transformation while they are still pending — -pendent opera interrupta (the interrupted work is discontinued); they go on again quietly, in accordance with the change in the art. The altered art takes up the monument where it was left off, incrusts itself upon it, assimilates it to itself, develops it after its own fashion, and finishes it if it can. The thing is done without disturbance, without effort, without reaction, according to a law natural and tranquil. It is like a budding graft—a sap that circulates—a vegetation that goes forward. Certainly there is matter for very large volumes, and often for the universal history of humanity, in those successive weldings of several species of art at different elevations upon the same monument. The man, the artist, the individual, disappear upon those great masses, leaving no name of an author behind. Human intelligence is there to be traced only in its aggregate. Time is the architect—the nation is the builder.

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