Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Notre-Dame: The Soul of France

Context. If France is such a secular country, and few people there attend religious services, why has there been such an outpouring of support to restore the Cathedral of Notre-Dame after the fire in 2019? In her book titled, Notre-Dame: The Soul of France, Agnès Poirier explains all the ways in which Notre-Dame has been the soul of France for eight hundred years. Readers will be gripped by her account of the fire and the actions by many to save as much of the structure and contents as possible. After that opening section, Poirier places the contemporary building in context by framing key events in the history of France relating to the building that is a church and much more. She explores Henry IV’s conversion to Catholicism, how Napoleon crowned himself emperor there while the Pope was present, how Victor Hugo’s writing and its adaptations made the building beloved to many, and how Charles de Gaulle used the building to unite the country after the war, and how his state funeral was held at Notre-Dame. In these episodes and more, Poirier shows how important Notre-Dame has been to the citizens of France. I laughed at one anecdote: in the Revolution mobs did damage to Notre-Dame as a response to the power of the Catholic Church. While much harm was done to the building, the organist played the Marseillaise loudly as a crowd approached. That kept the mob somewhat at bay and saved the structure from even greater pillage. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Notre Dame from amazon.com.

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