Last week, at the beginning of Holy Week, Notre Dame caught fire, destroying a centuries-old roof made of trees so tall that they are irreplaceable, and causing the cathedral’s famous spire to fall like a candle to the ground below. The photos of the fire will no doubt become famous, like those of St Paul’s Cathedral rising out of the Blitz, but out of this tragedy, there is hope.
The roof of the cathedral may have perished in the fire, as did the spire, but fires are part of the risk faced by ancient buildings. Windsor Castle caught fire in 1992, and St Andrews Cathedral was damaged by fire in 1378, before John Knox and his acolytes, after a powerful sermon, went from Trinity Church on South Street to the Cathedral and desecrated it in 1559.
St Andrews Cathedral, it seems safe to say, is not going to be rebuilt. Notre Dame, however, will be restored. With a billion Euros and counting pledged by billionaires and wealthy companies at the time of writing, money will be no object.
On the day when, according to the gospels, Jesus cleansed the temple of merchants and bankers; on the day, roughly two thousand years later, when Macron was due to give a speech to address the Yellow Vest movement’s concerns about rising inequality, Notre Dame caught fire, only then for millions to be donated to rebuild the cathedral.
The yellow vests are, understandably perhaps, put out by this development, demanding that Macron tax the rich,.something he has refused to do.
Meanwhile, in London, the Extinction Rebellion, supported by Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, brought the city to a standstill, making the demand that the United Kingdom should aim to have zero carbon emissions by 2025.
This came to prominence when the movements official spokesman Robin Boardman-Pattison walked out of a Sky News studio after accusations that the “rebellion” was run by “incompetent, middle class, self-indulgent people.”
All this in a week when, according to the religion that Notre Dame was built to celebrate, Christ was crucified, and came back from the dead.
The yellow vests methods have been effective and have imperilled Macron’s presidency.
The extinction rebellion turned itself into a joke when its spokesman was unable to handle criticism. But at the heart of all of this, there is a similar theme of hope.
Hope that Macron will address the concerns about rising inequality, hope that Parliament, despite its members being dispersed back to their constituencies, will hear the protesters in Parliament Square calling for action to be taken on behalf of the environment, and hope that Notre Dame’s spire will rise and once again grace the skyline of Paris.