Une Nouvelle Dame

Gargoyle: Daniel Gottleib

Why slavishly clone the old when we can build anew?

Like many other people, I’ve been experiencing contradictory feelings about Notre Dame. 

I visited it many years ago, during the 1960s and 70s, and found it very impressive, as of course it was designed to be.

I also found it very far from sacred: hanging around the grounds and shadowy aisles and chapels, rent boys were discreetly plying their trade. A very old tradition, I was told, just not much talked about.

Some years later, just after The Wall fell and communism collapsed (sort of) we toured Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. They were stuffed to the gills with elaborate, impressive, overwhelming churches and cathedrals. 

Some were original. Others – many buildings, sacred and secular – had been ‘lovingly reconstructed’ after the war. They were perfect reproductions – more perfect, I suspect, than the originals. Too many straight lines and right angles!

And they were cold, sterile, and dead.

For this, and many other reasons, I say: Do not ‘restore’ Notre Dame as it was. Do not ‘reproduce’ a modern copy of something now dead. 

Build something entirely new – incorporating some of the old, if you must – but don’t be a slave to history. Don’t try to reanimate this corpse.

Look forwards, not back. Celebrate living humans, not dead gods and corrupt, decaying religious institutions. Create new glories: the old ones are gone.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)