Recent news about the rebuilding of the fire-ravaged Gothic cathedral has confirmed what many have feared: Emmanuel Macron’s government will not put the historic building back into its original form, but will turn it into a woke educational tourist trap.
According to plans published in the Daily Telegraph, those responsible for the renovation of the Notre Dame cathedral have decided to remove a number of altar pieces and will replace them with modern statues reflecting contemporary values. One can only wonder what these are going to be, but some indications can be taken from the fact that there are also sound and projected light effects planned for the building that are meant to create “emotional spaces.”
The side-chapels are also marked for a radical revamp. They are going to form the part of an educational tour where visitors can get to know the cultures of Africa and Asia. The finale of the tour will be a chapel dedicated to environmental and climate issues.
Fourteen of the cathedral’s medieval chapels will have their historic objects removed and replaced with contemporary murals. There are also plans to project Biblical quotes onto the walls in world languages, including Arabic and Chinese. According to reports, there were even more outrageous proposals brought to the planning table such as a swimming pool, but these were rejected.
Similarly to other world leaders who — apart from their day job as politicians — fancy themselves as architectural visionaries, Macron has also delved into the battle for the future of the Notre Dame. According to him, the iconic 19th century spire that was destroyed during the 2019 disaster should be given a new contemporary look, instead of rebuilding the original one designed by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc. This “vision” proved to be a step too far, at least for the chief architect of the cathedral Philippe Villeneuve, who back in 2019 threatened to resign from his position if Macron’s plans were approved. He was, however, swiftly put back in his place by retired general Jean-Louis Georgelin, the man appointed by the president to oversee the rebuilding of the Notre Dame, who simply told Villeneuve to “shut his mouth.”
However, the battle between the brusque Macron loyalist general and the independent-minded architect seems to have been won by the latter, and as things stand, the spire will be re-erected in its original form.
This is not the first time that the 12th century cathedral has been vandalized by political zealots. Just a few years after the French Revolution, in 1793, the church was nationalized and re-dedicated to the cult of reason. Its decorations were destroyed or looted, and dozens of the medieval statues beheaded. After the Napoleonic wars in the first half of the 19th century, the cathedral was in such a poor shape that authorities contemplated its demolition.
Salvation came from an unexpected source. Victor Hugo’s classic novel, the “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” generated so much interest in the building that the city had decided to save it from ruin, appointing eccentric architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc with the task.
According to Maurice Culot, a well-known French architect and critic, “Viollet-le-Duc had well understood one could add notes that didn’t exist but on condition to do it in the spirit of the original and not in a sort of ridiculous rupture that will go out of fashion in three years.” Culot has also called the current plans to revamp the building a “politically correct Disneyland.” Yet, the Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, whose duty it would be to preserve the cathedral in the spirit of its original purpose as a place of worship, said that current plans would “bring the cathedral into the 21st century.”
Aupetit, who has recently tendered his resignation to the Pope because of revelations regarding his private life, did not explain why he objects against the cathedral entering the 21st century in its original form carrying the same message that it has been for almost 900 years.