Notre Dame

I suppose it’s unseemly to say so, but I’m indifferent to Notre Dame. Perhaps I would feel differently if I had once been there, but it’s more likely that if I had I would have felt irritated at the ostentatious wealth produced by a gaudy fraud.

A few things you are unlikely to learn from the news coverage.

  • As originally built, the high cathedral walls were profoundly unstable. The famous flying buttresses were a later addition, something I learned in a structures course as a civil engineering undergrad. Modern structural design incorporates shear-walls to overcome the problem, eliminating the need for exterior buttresses.

  • The Catholic Church pioneered modern distributed management. Have you ever wondered what is the difference between a cathedral and a church? Cathedrals served as “regional headquarters” and are headed by a higher-ranking Holy Man. Each cathedral, in turn, has “satellites” (local churches) whose staff are answerable to the big-shot who heads the cathedral.

  • The British author Ken Follett has written a wonderful novel about the politics, and architecture and engineering, of a medieval cathedral, The Pillars of the Earth. It’s a great yarn with a lot of detail, and well worth having in hand next trip to the beach.

  • It’s unlikely that Notre Dame, or any other of the hundreds of churches claiming crucifixion relics, actually possess relics of the crucifixion. Jesus was regarded as a common criminal by most Romans, and had a very small set of fans; it’s unlikely that those few fans rolled away barrels of souvenirs from the crucifixion, anticipating the day that every village church would aspire to boost its income by displaying a gen-u-ine splinter from the cross, or thorn from the crown, or knuckle from the thumb of some dead saint.

France has committed to rebuilding the cathedral, which is their business and allright with me; tourism supports a lot of jobs.

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