The world mourns the loss of iconic Notre Dame cathedral. Almost a thousand years of history consumed by flames in one day. Is it an accident or foul play? We may soon find out.
ART & POETRY
ALEX LANTIER—It is difficult to understand at this point how Notre-Dame cathedral could have found itself defenseless in the face of this type of fire. The vulnerability of French cathedral spires and roofs to fire has been well known for many centuries, with the cathedrals of Reims and Chartres having suffered major fires of this type in 1481 and 1506, respectively.Notre-Dame was spared major fires not only during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but also during the French Revolution and the Paris Commune, when Parisian workers attacked the structure as they rose up against the Church, and also during the two world wars of the 20th century.Despite all the vast technological advances that humanity has made in the 21st century, it is in this century that the famous cathedral was ravaged by fire. Serious questions are posed, with budgets in France and across Europe entirely turned to austerity and tax cuts for the rich, as to whether the allocation of more money on the renovation of Notre-Dame and its fire security could have averted or at least contained a blaze that ended up devastating the entire building.
GAITHER STEWART—Nicolae Ceausescu (1899-1989), a Romanian Communist politician, member of Politburo from 1954, President of Romanian Socialist Republic from 1967-1989. During the Romanian anti-Communist Revolution in 1989 that exploded in the big city of Timisoara with its strong Hungarian minority, on December 22 of that year he and his wife Elena Ceausescu were arrested in the small city of Targoviste near Bucarest, tried for genocide in a kind of show trial, and immediately executed on Christmas Day of 1989. The author notes: a planned midnight bus trip organized by Hungarians for foreign journalists departing at midnight from Budapest on December 22 was cancelled at the last minute because of the intensity of the fighting when everyone moving was a target by the many diverse factions. I, like others present in Budapest, was relieved we did not go but I have always wondered who gave the order not to send us there. Did the conceptual Ramon found refuge in America as did a long line of Nazis after WWII? I hoped not.
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DAVID WALSH—Gilroy’s disgust with the art trade is understandable, as is even the desire for some sort of dramatic “settling of accounts” with all the scoundrels involved. The quasi-supernatural element, however, becomes something of a distraction, and a detraction, something of an easy way out. (Aside from the fact that it is misleading, to say the least, to suggest that an untrained madman could produce significant art.)