Let’s Restore Notre Dame - But Not It’s Imperialist Heritage
As the flames devoured the old wooden structure in the heart of Paris people gathered to sing songs. This was the best of that fine old democracy on display. The bonhomie continued in the days following as donations poured in from across the globe to cover the costs of rebuilding the emblematic cathedral. It was an inspiring example of the possibilities of our connected planet, but amid all the emotion and talk of restoration nobody asked the fundamental question - should we rebuild Notre Dame?
Or possibly this is the wrong question as it is undoubtably a good idea to save such a landmark piece of architecture, the question is should we rebuild it just as it was? This is more more difficult conundrum for if we proceed with a piece-for-piece replica of the original then we risk reinforcing the principles of it’s imperialist past.
The cathedral was built at the behest of the Roman Catholic Church and as such stands as a symbol of the religious and economic oppression inflicted on developing nations by the church and the western civilisations which followed. Bought and paid for by resources stripped from across Africa, the Caribbean and India the restored Cathedral would act as a modern day monument to racism and slavery. It would be a distressing reminder of violence for all local residents and tourists. Instead there is an opportunity to create something greater, something more representative of modern day French society.
Just as Paris is a multicultural, modern metropolis that has evolved from the old Christian structures it would be apt to incorporate the old in with the new. Rather than a like-for-like rebuild perhaps a new centre could be built around the old Notre Dame. In this way the ageing structure could be preserved as part of a multicultural space encompassing a synagogue, a mosque and a non-religious space for cultural events such as debate, theatre and concerts. This would be more reflective of modern day Paris and make the space welcoming to visitors of all persuasions - rather than just Christians and history buffs.
If not then perhaps it would be best to just leave the structure as is and use the money raised for helping local minority communities - surely a more Christian endeavour than building vanity projects.
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