Saturday, February 2, 2013

Make A Joyful Noise

  I saw some great stories in the news recently about the dedication of a new set of bells for Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.   In the Middle Ages the bells of the Parish Cathedral were noted for the peal of their beautiful round tones, but those bells—like so many treasures of the Church—were destroyed in the turmoil of the French Revolution.  The Cathedral itself was profaned when on November 10th  1793 the “goddess of Reason”  was enthroned on high altar of the Cathedral.    Popular legend says that a Parisian prostitute was selected to be the deity-for-a-day, but in fact it was Sophie Momoro, the wife of the Hébertist leader, the printer and bookseller,  Antonine-François Momoro who was to lose his head—literally—in the political struggles with Robespierre less than five months later.  This was not a good time to be in French Politics—one day your wife is a goddess, the next your head is rolling down the avenue.  In any event, when the Cathedral was returned to Catholic worship in the negotiations between Napoleon and the Holy See in 1801, the Cathedral Chapter was so poor it lacked the money to buy a broom for the cleaning of the building.   The Church had been despoiled of its properties during the Revolution and one of the conditions of the concordat was that the Church would not seek the restoration of its endowments that it had lost.  Throughout the nineteenth century the Cathedral Chapter struggled to repair and restore the fabric of the Cathedral while rebuilding its financial base and the bells it purchased to replace those seized in the Revolution were of a very poor quality with  horrible clanging tones as anyone who has visited Paris and heard the peal knows.  Nine new bells have been cast to join the one remaining pre-revolutionary bells.  The bells are currently on display in the Cathedral nave where the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris—Cardinal André Vignt-Trois—blessed the bells in the company of his auxiliary bishops, the Cathedral Chapter, the clergy and the faithful of Paris.  So, on your next trip back to Paris, just as you cross the Pont d’Arcole there is a lovely little bistro to your left as you approach the Cathedral. I believe it is called Aux Tours de Notre Dame.  Sit there—have a kir and perhaps a pastry, and listen to the bells. 

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