Here is a video tour (in French) of the cathedral before the fire. At minute 9:05 they enter the roof area. You can see the wood structure and a couple of fire extinguishers. This is where the fire raced through the building. After watching the fire destroy the roof so ferociously, those fire extinguishers look more like ornaments than useful implements. I have to say, though, this is an amazing video. One gets a great inside, behind the walls as it were, tour of this great cathedral. Even if one doesn’t understand French.
Some video showing what the firefighters were up against:
Some images that caught my eye:
[*Note: I don’t remember where I found these images, so my apologies for not giving proper credit.]
Before and after:
Many are pointing out the fact that the aesthetically strange and seemingly out-of-place modernist altar designed to suit the Novus Ordo/Spirit of Vatican II modernist church has been destroyed under a pile of rubble while the traditional altar designed to suit the Traditional Latin Mass (the Mass for which this church was built) still stands. Some see this as highly symbolic, perhaps even prophetic. I tend to agree, or at least I want it to be true, but I don’t want to read too much into it.
Not all of us can regularly go to Mass in a cathedral of great beauty. Most Catholics have available to them rather humdrum works of architecture for their local parish. But it’s still possible to find beautiful small churches where careful attention to detail and the meaning of form went into their design. And yet, that still relatively rare.
The following video is an excellent look at one of the crown jewels of Catholic cathedrals, Chartres Cathedral in France. This comes from the “Smarthistory. art, history, conversation” YouTube channel. As you watch it, consider how much thought went into this building, and then consider the church where you regularly go to Mass. My point here is not to highlight the great beauty of Chartres compared to the humble local parish, but how carefully the design and the details were thought through and realized in Chartres. Can we achieve such excellence again? And can we achieve something of this in our local parishes? I believe we can and should.
Of course, very few parishes have the resources to build large and lavish churches, but often a church that achieves the right virtue of proper “churchness” is not a matter of resources, or size, or expensive materials, as it is of basic understanding and will. What I mean is that having the right understanding of what a church is and ought to be, and applying one’s minds carefully to its design, even a small church in a small parish can be a work of architecture worthy of worshiping Christ and elevating the faithful to Heaven.
I am surprised at how apparently ignorant so many Catholics are, including many in the hierarchy, about basic church architecture–or seem to be so. Churches are where we celebrate Mass. This is no small matter. Although, perhaps most Catholics are not as ignorance and not caring about such things, believing they are unimportant. However, the church building itself, though not absolutely necessary for celebrating Mass is, nonetheless, the normative place of worship. In it we meet the Real Presence of our Lord and savior, the King of Kings. If we take worship seriously then we should take church design seriously, including for the humble local parish Church. Catholics used to. But we haven’t for some time now. We must again.
I have frequently posted on this and related topics, for example here.
I also love how the speakers in the above video, Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris, don’t shy away from orthodox Catholic dogma. This is not a video where the information presented has a condescending tone toward faith and believers. I have no idea if they are Catholics or not, but they just say things as though they are relating how Catholics ought to think of these things. I think this is the best way to present something like Chartres Cathedral. The viewer can make up their own mind, but at least one should know what the builders of Chartres believed and what led to make the kinds of decisions they did.
I have also been reading an excellent book, Visions of Mary : art, devotion, and beauty at Chartres Cathedral by Rev. Jill Kimberly Hartwell Geoffrion. She is a scholar, photographer, and Episcopalian priest who has come to love Chartres and Catholic history. (I pray she takes the leap and become Catholic–perhaps not easy for a woman who is an Episcopalian priest. She would have to give up some things precious to her.) This book takes a look at aspects that speak directly to the Holy Mother, her role in the life of the Church, and how Catholics (especially in times past) think of Mary. It does so by focusing and meditating on specific details of the cathedral. This book makes me want to go to Chartres and spend some significant time with the Cathedral, taking pictures and making sketches and just attending to it.
As I see it, architects should look at Chartres, and similarly excellent Catholic churches, as inspiration to how they should think about church design in general, and then apply that understanding to every Catholic church building, even the most humble and simple of churches. I also believe the faithful should know these things too, being encouraged in the faith, but also demanding churches actually be Catholic in their designs.
Of course, church design tends to flow from intended use, thus a church designed to serve the needs of the Traditional Latin Mass will necessarily look different than one designed to serve the needs of a Novus Ordo Mass. This is why, when the Novus Ordo was promulgated, so many older churches had their altar rails removed, altars brought closer to the nave, and other changes because the Novus Ordo felt wrong in a traditional space. And this is also why the Novus Ordo still feels out of place in a traditional church even after those kinds of changes have been made, because arches, stained glass, cruciform floor plans, and other harder-to-change elements don’t fit the New Mass. The contemporary modernist church needs a more Protestant style, entertainment hall. Thus, it’s more than merely the architecture that often needs to change.
Will you be saved? This is a profound and fundamental question. Fr. Anthony Mary, C.Ss.R pushes hard on this question and its implications. His talk is powerful, and its content will be almost entirely foreign to Protestant ears.
If I could summarize this talk in the least number of words, I would say it is a warning against the sin of presumption. However, to Protestants it will sound like Fr. Anthony is promoting salvation by works. But we see in Holy Scripture that we are to “work out our salvation,” and that “faith without works is dead,” and that we should “run the race as to win,” etc. It is precisely because we are saved by God’s grace alone that we can work, strive, run, hold fast, put on armor, be holy, and seek perfection with all our might. If we do not care to do this, or if we always have a quick reason at hand declaring we don’t need to, then how badly do we want salvation?
Modern Christianity, certainly born out of the Protestant rebellion, but also part of so much modern Catholicism as well, downplays the seriousness of all this because: 1) Christianity should be about being happy, and thinking of judgement makes us uncomfortable and unhappy; 2) sola fide, a heresy on its own, has morphed into the the “funny inner feeling” that allows oneself to forgive oneself and to declared oneself saved based on one’s feelings about oneself; and 3) we fear that it’s true that faith is actually hard work, and that we are in fact called to holiness and perfection, and that we cannot truly know who will be saved, so we create a Christianity of convenient excuses and social conformity that supports our excuses, which lay the foundation for the sin of presumption. I admit this is an indictment of much of my life.
So… are the examples of the saints mentioned in Fr. Anthony’s talk good pictures of how we should consider our own salvation? I cannot say for certain, but I would rather err leaning towards them than towards modern Christianity’s mostly saintless example.
And how am I doing with this? Terrible. God help me. Queen of Heaven pray for me.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Each morning, after my Bible and Catechism reading, I try to pray the rosary. The rosary played an important part in my coming into the Catholic Church. I wrote about it here. I have come to love the rosary. Praying the rosary every morning helps me get through the day. When I go to bed at night, I look forward to praying the next morning — that and my coffee. (Before you read further, know that I am not at all pious. The life of faith is a struggle for me.)
Here’s the basic form I follow:
First, if I can, I pray kneeling. I have set up a crucifix, a tryptic of Mary, and a candle on my desk. These things help me focus and get my mind and heart into a more devotional mode. I don’t need them, but I like having them.
Typically I’m the first one awake in the morning in my house, so it is quiet. I usually up at 4 AM. I have tended to be very self-conscious in the past, so it was hard to pray if I knew others knew I was praying. Now it’s easier for me. Sometimes my son (now 8 yrs old) walks in on me. I invite him to pray with me. Sometimes he says yes… for a while at least. I need to do a better job of having my family pray together. This is a big area of failure for me.
Second, I tend to follow the standard rosary structure, with a couple of common additions. Note: I am praying the Rosary more and more in Latin. The Devil hates Latin, so I’ve been told on good authority. Here’s my morning prayer:
I cross myself
then I recite the Apostles Creed
then I pray the Our Father
then I say “For an increase in the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity,” then pray three Hail Marys
then I pray the Glory Be (I always cross myself each time I pray this)
then I read the first mystery (I sometimes use the Laudate app on my phone to provide these texts, and to remind me of the prayers if I forget the words)
then I pray the Our Father
then, just before I begin the decade, I ask Mary for her prayers. I have a little notebook that I keep a list of my prayer intentions. They have basic headings: Family, Church, Work, etc. Each heading has below it a number of specific things that I pray for, such as my wife, each of my three children, holiness, the Pope, our parish priests, etc, etc. Each heading group gets one decade of the rosary. For example, the first decade is for my family, the second for the Church and the world, etc.
after each decade I pray the Glory Be prayer, and then the Oh My Jesus prayer (as asked by Our Lady of Fatima — this I feel is very important)
after praying all five decades, I follow with praying the Hail Holy Queen
then I sometimes pray the Our Lady of All Nations prayer (which is linked to Fatima), though I pray this less these days. Perhaps I should more
then I cross myself
then I pray the intercessory prayer to St. Pio of Pietrelcina. I do this for the restoration of my parishes original high altar to be moved back to the sanctuary, for a TLM institute or society to be established in my parish, for a TLM religious order to be established in my hometown, and that my parish would become an inspiration for our diocese in terms of worship, TLM, and passion.
then I finish with the St. Michael the Archangel Intercessory Prayer
I then cross myself and blow out the candle
The whole thing takes about thirty to forty five minutes, depending on how much time I devote to my list of individuals to pray for.
By the fourth decade my knees are usually killing me. It’s a struggle to keep going. This will sound funny to contemporary ears, but I want to pray like a Medieval–that is, accepting my suffering as a reminder of the efforts we all have to make towards holiness. So I shift my weight from knee to knee, but I try to stay kneeling. Maybe it will get easier eventually.
As an aside: I have written before on the physicality of faith, the life of prayer, confronting the holiness of God, and what that requires of our bodies. We live in a neo-gnostic or neo-dualistic age where we have lost touch with the fact that the human person is body and soul together forever. We separate “ourselves” from our bodies: we are spirits and our bodies are things. I believe the Medievals, however, knew better the physicality of spirituality and true worship of God. They sought divinization. Most Christians today probably have not even heard of divinization. I think the “spiritual but not religious” thing is driven mostly by this neo-gnosticism/dualism and those ignorant they are neo-gnostics/dualists — where spiritual is equated with the self and thus good, and religion is equated with the body and thus bad or less-than.
My family and I live in a wooden area. If it is light enough outside I will open the curtain and look out at the trees. Sometimes there are deer and wild turkeys making the way through the neighborhood. There was even a bear sighting recently not far from our neighborhood. Rather than a distraction, however, I find their presence reminds me of God the Creator.
It’s about as simple and plain as one can get. I think it was about $7.00. I now have more than one rosary, but that first rosary is in my pocket with me every day, even as I write this. I typically use this rosary to pray every morning too.
I lived more than forty seven years as a Protestant before becoming a Catholic. The last seven of those years I began searching, researching, and praying. I was being drawn to the Church and, in a sense, I think I knew it. I looked at a lot of choices, including the “emergent church” and Eastern Orthodoxy. But it was the Catholic Church that won my heart and mind.
At some point during those final seven years before entering the Church I purchased the rosary above. I did it secretly, from an online vendor. I cannot express the mix of emotions I felt, having come from a significantly anti-Catholic background. Once it arrived I kept it hidden. I had feelings of carrying contraband when it was in my pocket. I searched online for resources on how to pray the rosary. I printed a one-page guide and kept it folded in my pocket. The guide got so beat up that the creases were taped and retaped to hold it together. I guess I could have just printed a new one, but I tend to get sentimental about these things.
On more than one occasion I thought I lost the rosary. Each time I’ve prayed and then found it. I can get a little panicky about it. I’m not superstitious, but I do care a lot about this particular string of beads.
If I could afford to do so, I would have many rosaries. But it’s this one that’s most precious to me. When I got this rosary I had a strange and, frankly, bizarre feeling somewhere deep in my soul that the Catholic Church was an actual possibility for my life, and I was also convinced there was no way I could ever become Catholic. Equally strange, I really wanted to have a rosary. I had never held a rosary. It’s possible I had never even seen a rosary in real life. I had certainly never prayed to Mary. I had never prayed to anyone other than God the Father or Son. I was trained to think praying to Mary was a form of paganism. But I was weirdly compelled to explore.
So, I got the rosary and learned to pray it. And then, eventually, I began to ask Mary to solve my dilemma. Looking back this seems funny, but I wondered if Mary could get me into the Church — assuming it was God’s will, of course.
Several evenings ago I walked into my parish church to do something I’ve never done before. Probably out of ignorance and hubris, and not a little blind hopefulness, I decided to lend my voice to our parish choir. But not for the normal Sunday choir, which supports our regular Novus Ordo Mass. This time I joined in because I had heard at Sunday Mass the announcement that coming up in about four weeks was going to be a special Novus Ordo Mass (feast day at St. Mary, Our Lady of the Presentation) that would be entirely in Latin along with Latin (and Greek) chant, and that if anyone wanted to join in the choir they would be welcome, and that our choir director would be offering a chant schola in preparation for the Mass.
So I reached out via email and was invited to join.
As I walked in to the church I heard beautiful music resounding throughout the nave and sanctuary from the regular choir rehearsal as they were finishing up. After blessing myself and genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament, I turned, looked up, and saw this.
With not a little panic mixed with excitement I realized I would be going up to the choir loft. What had I decided to do? Reality was setting in. I had never been up there, but have wanted to. I had not sung in a choir since, probably, about 4th grade for some silly event. As I worked my way towards my destination I was asked a couple of times if I was a tenor or bass. I could only shrug. I had no idea. Oh no, I thought to myself. I’m an idiot. I’m a fool. At my answer a look of slight worry crossed the faces of my questioners. Had I made a huge mistake?
On the back bench lay items of sheet music and a binder. I picked up my copies and went to my place. Everything was new to me. I did not know these people. I had never been in the choir loft, I was an imposter. Perhaps I didn’t even know how to sing. However I was welcomed warmly. Okay, at least they’re nice.
Then I looked down at the sheet music. Oh no. This was not the medieval square note sheet music. Not that I know that ancient form well, but because of my curiosity about historical Christianity I know a little. And it’s rather simple to follow if you know the basic format. Rather, this was the Missa Secunda by Hans Leo Hassler, and it looked like this:
If you want to know how it’s supposed to sound, here’s a recording from another choir:
Okay. For those of you who can read music easily, have sung in adult choirs, know that you are a tenor or bass or whatever, then you might be curious at the sudden and profound panic I felt. (Perhaps you are merely laughing at my foolishness.) I realized I would have to reach deep into my past, to those few piano lessons of many decades ago and remember foggy snipits about breathing at the right time, etc. 4/4 time. 3/4 time. Half notes. Whole notes. God help me, and God save this choir from me.
The choir director, a very kind and super encouraging man (fortunately for me), brought me to a side room and had me sing Mary had a little lamb, just to determine there my voice might fit. He said I could be a tenor or bass, so he put me with the tenors. And there I was.
We began with the traditional chant Salve Regina to warm up. That helped. I know that one, and it’s not too difficult. Then we dove into the Missa Secunda. Another great blessing for me, I was next to a woman who knows the music very well, has a great ear to be able to listen to me while she sings herself, and a kind and generous spirit to guide me through my stumblings. If she had not been there I might have completely failed and not come back. Later others told me, yeah she’s great.
So, rehearsal one is over. Three more to go. Will I be able to do this. I asked several, including the choir director, after that first rehearsal if they think I can contribute. They were all very encouraging. I also found online resources to help me do “homework” between rehearsals.
This is a PBS special from 1986. Though dated in some ways, it still holds up as a great explanation of the gothic style and the basic concepts of cathedral construction of the medieval period. It also gives some idea of life in a medieval town.
Author David Macaulay hosts CATHEDRAL, based on his award-winning book. Using a combination of spectacular location sequences and cinema-quality animation, the program surveys France’s most famous churches. Travel back to 1214 to explore the design of Notre Dame de Beaulieu, a representative Gothic cathedral. The program tells period tales revealing fascinating stories of life and death, faith and despair, prosperity, and intrigue.
The book from which it is based was first published in 1973.
Naturally one would expect a program like this to focus more on the construction and unique stylistics characteristics of gothic cathedrals (suited more for the tourist than the worshiper). And is does do that. But one also gets a sense of the purpose of cathedrals and how they expressed the Christian faith and beliefs of the people.
I found this video because I am trying to educate myself on the meaning and purpose of Christian architecture.