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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Paris, at the Notre-Dame



In the novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, a deformed ugly looking child was abandoned at the Notre-Dame Cathedral. The baby was named Quasimodo by Archdeacon Claude Frollo who adopted him.  This scene reminds me of a scene from the movie Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa, showing an unwanted baby abandoned at the ruined Rashomon Gate. The baby then was adopted by the Woodcutter (read “An Interview with Akira” in this blogspot). 


In the novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Victor Hugo wrote largely about Notre-Dame to make the people of Paris become more aware of the value of the Gothic architecture, which was neglected and often destroyed to be replaced by new buildings or defaced by replacement of parts in a newer style. The first three chapters of the novel are a plea to preserve Gothic architecture—in Hugo’s words, a “gigantic book of stone,” which he found beautiful.

After centuries of mistreatment, additions, vandalism, and purgings, the visitors find a beautiful cathedral that was not as it is today.  Victor Hugo was able to bring about the salvation of a magnificent church because he was able to capture the lost beauty of this church with his novel. 


Now the cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and best-known church buildings in France, and in the world. The naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass serve to contrast it with earlier Romanesque architecture.


However, currently the cathedral has required an extensive makeover once again due to deterioration, broken gargoyles and fallen balustrades replaced by plastic pipes and wooden planks. Flying buttresses darkened by pollution and eroded by rainwater. Pinnacles propped up by beams and held together with straps.


Little of that deterioration is immediately visible to the millions of awe-struck tourists who visit the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, many of them too busy admiring the intricately sculpted front to notice the deterioration.


Everywhere the stone is eroded, and the more the wind blows, the more all of these little pieces keep falling. Experts say Notre-Dame, although not at risk of sudden collapse, has reached a tipping point, therefore it needs a make-over, an expensive make over estimated to cost 150 million Euro.


As Victor Hugo wrote in his novel, the words ring true today 150 years later: “Assuredly, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Paris is, to this day, a majestic and sublime edifice, but noble as it has remained while growing old, one cannot but regret, cannot but feel indignant at the innumerable degradations and mutilations inflicted on the venerable pile, both by the action of time and the hand of man.”


END