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This interview with Rémi Brague, conducted by Jérôme Cordelier, was originally published in the French weekly Le Point.
Le Point: To see Notre-Dame de Paris burning—what did you feel when you saw those apocalyptic images?
Rémi - Brague - Thing - Everyone - Reaction
Rémi Brague: The same thing as everyone else, I imagine, a very banal reaction: surprise, astonishment, worry, sorrow. And then admiration for the courage of the firefighters. In some ways, it’s our 9/11.
LP: Fire, the spiritual, art, history…these are very strong symbols at work. How do you interpret this event? Do you find it significant that this event occurred at the beginning of Holy Week, at the approach of Easter?
RB - Let - Character - Coincidence - Nothing
RB: Let’s not be too quick to give a providential character to what is probably pure coincidence. But there is nothing to prevent us from seizing on the event as an opportunity to reflect on the meaning that we might draw from it, as a sort of challenge. That is where the symbolic dimension plays out fully: the fire that destroys, but also purifies; the church of stone, an image of the Church made of living stones; history, this past that snowballs to bring about our own present.
LP: It is also an image of the history of France, and even of Europe, that is burning.
RB - Notre-Dame - Role - Stages - History
RB: Yes, Notre-Dame has played a role at many stages in the history of France. For example, during the Terror, it was converted into a temple of Reason, which was personified by an actress. In May 1940, the entire government, although hardly pious and even rather anticlerical, came there in order to place the destiny of France under the protection of the Virgin Mary. Five years later, at the Liberation, De Gaulle had a Te Deum sung there.
That said, Notre-Dame is not merely a witness to the history of France; it is also a...
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