Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

The Cathedral: Mirror of the West, Then and Now

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

The recent fires at the medieval Catholic cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris almost immediately were seen as a referendum on the West, even by those who are not Christians.

How at the supposed apex of Western technology, science, and affluence could a sudden inferno devour the spire, roof, and some of the interior icons of the nearly 800-year-old cathedral, itself perched on the bank of a river, and the survivor of centuries of desecrations, remodels, expansions, and repairs, when the arts of preservation, fire prevention and response, and engineering were supposedly backward by our standards?

Logically or not, many saw the fire as a curtain call for the West, or at least an eclipse of the ancient marriage of European Christian belief and scientific brilliance that together produced the most impressive and beautiful expressions of Western transcendence.

And now the second-most-revered church in the West smolders — something that neither French revolutionaries nor World War II bombers could accomplish.

In our smug era of high tech and conspicuous consumption, Western Europeans and Americans do not build Christian cathedrals anymore. Our challenge is simply to keep standing — at least sort of — what we inherited.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

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