[First published 16 April 2019, the night Notre Dame burnt.]
Jacques de Molay, thou art avenged!
I won’t retell the story of De Molay. Grand Master of the Knights Templar, he was burnt at the stake within sight of Notre Dame. A few centuries later, Guy Debord’s ashes were thrown into the Seine from the same place.
The burning of Notre Dame is of major symbolic importance. I cannot think of a single event in France since the crowning of Napoleon in 1804 (in the same building) that surpasses this. In concentrated symbolic power this outdoes the signings of the two armistices of Compiègne in one and the same railway carriage in 1918 and 1940.
It will certainly be used by the current French regime to promote the idea of “la patrie en danger” (fatherland in danger).
And not just by the current regime but also by the Rassemblement National (National Rally), formerly known as the National Front. I will not be surprised one bit if in the next general election the party incorporates an image of Notre Dame into its logo. Who knows, perhaps Marion Maréchal-Le Pen or her aunt will adopt the mantle of Marianne? From the blue waves of the sea to the centre, the centre of Paris, the centre of the world. (They’re kind of unlikely to keep their flame logo.)
The fire is excellent news for the Christian far right which has stretched and stretched since the days of Charles Maurras and before – without success, but without being defeated either – to re-establish its dominance in France.
(Meanwhile, outside of France, to the world’s Anglophone market whose ideas are already in its hands, the US-based multinational Google has been busily framing the fire, using its video arm Youtube, as akin to the terror attacks on the New York financial district and the US defence ministry’s HQ – “The Pentagon” – in 2001. Of course one important difference is that whereas there was a loss of more than 2000 civilian lives in the New York attack, so far no life has been reported to have been lost in the Notre Dame fire. But those attacks in the fly-by-night country called the “United States” took place upon some here-today gone-tomorrow bits of recent crappy architecture which are at least two levels below Notre Dame in symbolic significance.)
Oh and Michel Mourre, you are avenged too!