Notre Dame: Restoration or Renaissance?

Coventry cathedral shell
Coventry Cathedral, the shell of old St Michael’s, with the link to the new on the left.

Those who know or follow me are aware that my religious preference is “no religion”, but that I accept others’ right and desire to pursue worship in whatever form, provided it is peaceful and not antagonistic.  Nonetheless, the fire at Notre Dame de Paris is a tragedy for Parisians, French folk and Christians in particular, but also strikes at the heart of that sense of continuity and permanence that reassures us all.Back in the Blitz of World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill understood this and ordered St Paul’s to be saved at any cost.  And the people of Coventry were devastated by the widespread destruction of their city and of the shell that was once the cathedral of which they were justifiably proud.

My first visit to Coventry was at the age of eleven on a day trip from Grammar School.  I remember being unsure about the very modern, very rectangular architecture, but, even so young, thought the “new” cathedral was a splendid place answering more readily to modern notions of worship and Christian community.

Recently, I visited Coventry (I have been on several occasions between) and saw in the counterpoint of ancient and modern a value that would not be achieved by a straight stone-by-stone reconstruction of the original; it would be just another gothic cathedral among many in England.

I would recommend President Macron to visit Coventry before expending such great wealth on just such a restoration to the status quo ante.  Notre Dame, just as other cathedrals, has continued to evolve over the 800 years since the surviving section was built, and it seems to me that here is another evolutionary opportunity, and a rare chance for modern designers to tackle an ecclesiastical project of international importance.  Perhaps something that, along with the planned Olympic complex, shows off Paris as the modern, cosmopolitan city that it is.

Coventry cathedral new
Coventry Cathedral, designed by Sir Basil Spence, with the miraculous old spire in the background.

One thought on “Notre Dame: Restoration or Renaissance?

  1. Having been lucky to have visited some of the great Cathedrals of Europe,from Venice, Florence, Rome, Milan, Barcelona and our own Cathedrals in this Country, Coventry Cathedral as no appeal to me, i suppose i’m a old traditional ,i have not been to the newer Liverpool Cathedral so cannot comment on that one,i hope Notre Dame will be returned to its former Glory, but i suppose at the end of the day as Dave Allen use to say at the end of his show,may your God go with you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s