Western Civilization’s contributions to humanity in the sciences, art, music, technology, literature, philosophy, and its cultural influences are unparalleled throughout the history of the world. And the genesis of this great experience is intricately woven in the tapestry of Christianity.
The Church has been the motivating force in the formation of Western Society and through its worldly mission a major source of social services to the poor and downtrodden. The Churches investment and authority in education, and medical care; its influence in politics and religious thought have inspired philosophers, and have had a vast and tremendous effect on Western attitudes.
Following the fall of the Roman Empire and during the Middle Ages, the Church became the unifying force on the European continent. While advancing the cause of human progress, with scholars preserving the literacy of ages past, the Church founded Europe’s first universities. Many of the most spectacular and iconic jewels of architectural achievements in the design of some of the first cathedrals and churches occurred during this period.
Christianity’s message to the faithful, and its devotion to the Lord and Saints can be found in the magnificent structures it has built over the centuries. Author Nelson Fragelli has spoken of the theology and symbolism behind medieval architecture. The author expresses how artisans and craftsmen of the period designed the churches and cathedrals, and that their inspiration was a manifestation of a catechism carved in stone. The façade, flying buttresses, spires, stain glass windows, and statues tell a divine story of faith, hope, salvation, and yes, damnation; all of this to influence and reinforce the church’s teachings among the faithful.
Intersections between heaven and earth, cathedrals, churches, are found throughout the known world. The Catholic Church alone has over 3,300 houses of worship. The Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris is one that has consumed much of the news over the last week. On April 15 Notre Dame, the spiritual heart of the French capital was consumed in part by a ravaging fire. The people of France and Christians and non-Christians were shocked and saddened by the destruction and partial loss of this iconic gothic cathedral; its providential message speaks to the world.
Notre Dame Cathedral, Our Lady, in English dates back over 850 years; it was built over a Gallo-Roman temple to Jupiter [Encyclopedia Britannica]. Construction began under the reign of King Louis VII in 1163 and was completed two centuries later in 1345. The cathedral is located on its own small island in the Seine River called the ‘Ile de la Cite,’ and is the seat of the Archbishop of Paris.
Initial reports revealed renovation was being performed on the spire, and the fire may have started in the attic. The roof and main spire were made of wood and were totally destroyed, but most of the cathedral's exterior, including the façade, two main bell towers, and flying buttresses were saved. As for treasures within the cathedral, many were saved, including the sacred relics believed to be the original “Crown of Thorns” placed on the head of Christ, and a piece of wood from the cross and a spike, all used in the crucifixion. Hopefully, the magnificent stained-glass windows and the great rose window can be saved.
French President Emmanuel Macron referred to the cathedral as the “Epicenter of French life”, and went on to say “We will rebuild because it is what the French people expect, our history deserves it, it is our profound destiny.” And it is “Our history, our literature, our imagination.”
The cathedral withstood aerial bombings during World War II, and was immortalized in the Victor Hugo 1831 novel, and the movie classic “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Historical events took place in the cathedral including the crowning of Henry VI in 1431, Napoleon Bonaparte’s coronation as emperor in 1804, the beatification of Joan of Arc in 1909.
For a brief period, most of the mainstream media’s reporting focused on Notre Dame; however, there were some of the usual suspects that could not contain themselves and were chomping at the bit to get back to their obsessions of collusion and obstruction. And then their phony façade collapsed and tumbled down the same week of the fire when Attorney General Barr appeared before the people and the press and said things they did not want to hear. The mainstream media went into a tailspin and everything was back to normal, or should I say the abnormal.
Is the partial destruction of the Cathedral of Notre Dame a metaphor for the decline of Christianity in Europe and America? I have written in the past how religious observance in America has been dwindling and is no longer practiced by a majority of the American people.
Until we know otherwise, it appears the Notre Dame Cathedral fire began accidentally. However, as we have now learned, there have been multiple attacks on churches throughout France and the Middle East. On Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka, multiple church bombings killed over 350 worshippers and injured over 500. Islamist terrorists wearing explosive vests have been found to have committed these attacks on innocent worshippers.
Is this all meant to slowly diminish and eventually decimate the Christian faith? And yet, should this ever come to pass, I believe a world without Christianity will become a darker, to an even greater extent morally corrupt, and a much more deadly place.