Media, relieved that Notre Dame relics were saved, acts as if they were real

The fire at Notre Dame is out, and much of the main building was spared, though it will take years, if ever, to bring it back to where it was before. I’m not sure about the status of its famous stained-glass windows, though one photo seems to show that a big one is gone, for, after all, the glass was held together with easily-melted lead. The cause of the disaster has not been determined, and may never be.

All in all, it’s not the disaster I feared; here’s what it looks like today:

Photo from the NY Times. Thibault Camus/Associated Press

President Macron has pledged that it will be rebuilt, and private donors have already given millions to that purpose, with the LVMH Group having donated 200 million Euros.

While I was watching the news last night, they had a special report from a correspondent who was talking about whether the artwork and relics had been saved. She was especially concerned that Jesus’s crown of thorns had been recovered, and I’d forgotten that that relic was even in the Cathedral. In fact, the Cathedral also contains not only a nail supposedly used to secure Jesus to the cross, but a piece of the True Cross itself. The chances that these are real are miniscule; I suspect that if there was a “True Cross”, the pieces of it preserved in various places would be much larger than any execution cross.

On this morning’s local news, an anchor was especially excited that the cross on the altar had been preserved, clearly implying that this was the work of God. She didn’t discuss why God allowed the Cathedral to burn but saved the cross.

At any rate, here’s how CNN reported on these relics:

The cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris is home to scores of priceless artifacts, artwork and relics collected over the centuries, each with their own story.

As a devastating fire tore through the revered Gothic cathedral on Monday, toppling its spire, many feared these treasures might be lost forever.

The Crown of Thorns, which some believe was placed on the head of Jesus and which the cathedral calls its “most precious and most venerated relic,” was rescued from the fire, according to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

“We managed to protect the most precious treasures in a safe place,” a Paris City Hall spokesperson told CNN.

However it has not been confirmed whether individual items such as a fragment of the True Cross and one of the Holy Nails were saved.

Granted, the Crown of Thorns is qualified by saying that “some believe it was placed on the head of Jesus”, but the fragment of the True Cross and one of the Holy Nails are presented as if they were real relics. And the reporter on NBC Nightly News certainly didn’t qualify these relics.

Even the New York Times didn’t hedge that much:

While one treasure, a relic of the crown of thorns said to have been worn by Jesus during his crucifixion, was saved, the status of other historic items is unclear.

Yes, the crown was “said to have been worn by Jesus”, but the fact of Jesus’s crucifixion (much less the identity of the Jesus person) is not established historically. The “other historic items”, like the nail that went through Jesus, aren’t “historic” in the sense that their provenance is established, but only in that they were historically seen by the credulous as being real.

Perhaps I’m being overly captious, but the chances are very high that these relics are dubious; it’s as if the press reported “It has not been confirmed whether the runner from Santa’s sleigh was saved.” Wikipedia lists over a dozen related relics, either individual thorns from the Crown of Thorns or fragments of the entire crown, preserved at various places.  Like the Shroud of Turin and many other relics of Jesus, these are fakes, products of a Jesus-relic industry in the Middle Ages.

Here’s the supposed Crown preserved in a gold reliquary at Notre Dame:

Another view (could there be Jesus’s DNA on it from bloodstains?):

Reuters: Philippe Wojazer

As for the crucifixion nails, it’s true that nails have been found in tombs in Israel that were driven through bone, and were likely used in crucifixions, but none of these has been identified as a Jesus Nail (and how could it be given that his bones would have gone missing?), and there are at least three separate crucifixions involved.  Here’s a nail that was driven through the hand:

Here’s the “Holy Nail” from Notre Dame:

(Photo by: Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Re the piece of the True Cross, well, let’s start with some carbon dating on that.

Here’s a tweet from a global news agency failing to qualify the “Crown of Thorns” although it does hedge on St. Louis’s tunic. And of course the artefacts are replaceable; you just cobble together another crown out of dried twigs.

I’m not trying to be churlish here, but just reporting how religious myths subtly become reinforced by the press.  (Caveat: some places, including the Guardian, hedges all these relics with an indication that they’re “believed to be real”.) At any rate, the value and beauty of Notre Dame, which are undeniable, are to me completely independent of the truth of Christian mythology, which I see as false. The Rose Windows are infinitely more valuable to our culture than a nail of dubious origin. But such is faith.

165 Comments

  1. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Yes, the stonework has survived far better than might have been expected watching the videos.

    In fact it makes a very imposing ruin.

    Assuming the stonework hasn’t been damaged in non-obvious ways (like cracking), it may not take too long to rebuild. A look-alike timber structure could be fabricated from glue-laminated treated timber relatively quickly (so long as nobody insists on hand-sawn oak).

    Personally, I think the biggest treasure is the building itself.

    cr

    • Dominic
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      Yes – if you want oak beams that involves a lot of oak trees of probably at least 200 years old to get the right size timbers, trees from a forest where they grow tall & straight. It could be there is timber as France is pretty big & has a lot of woodland. In England 200 years ago people were planting oaks assuming they would need them for naval construction in the future – perhaps they also did that in France?

      • jpetts
        Posted April 16, 2019 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        The French know about woodwork with mature timber:

        It is likely enough that, rooted in the woods of France and Norway, there were growing trees, when that sufferer was put to death,
        already marked by the Woodman, Fate, to come down and be sawn into boards, to make a certain movable framework with a sack and a knife in it, terrible in history.

      • bewilderbeast
        Posted April 16, 2019 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

        I’m crying as I read this! Please let trees stay alive and harbour wildlife; Rather than become part of a dead lie.
        Sell the Notre Dame and use the money to save a natural area for our kids and grandkids.
        I trust the holy fathers will give my plea their serious consideration. I think God was saying to them: Enough fake shit! Save the nature THAT I CREATED!! I made that ree, how dare you cut it down and carve a stupid “likeness” of me! Hell, I actually specifically told you not to do that! What don’t you understand about NO GRAVEN IMAGES? Why do you think I made my son preach under trees and on hills?
        Oy VEY! Why the fancy buildings already!!??

        • Atheist4NotreDame
          Posted April 20, 2019 at 4:34 am | Permalink

          What carving are you talking about? The trees would be used for recreating the roof of Notre Dame. I wasn’t aware that building churches was forbidden..Also, the money was donated from many parties, so would not have been pooled together but for this cause of helping rebuild a historical and architectural landmark.

          I think to many – myself included, having visited Notre Dame 2-3 years ago – this is much less about religion and more to do with the history surrounding the building, the architectural accomplishment it represents along with the beauty of said architecture, and just the achievement of man to be able to have many great craftsmen come together to first create, and over hundreds of years to maintain, such a fantastic structure.

          I’m not sure if you’ve been to France, but the place is covered in forests. The wood for the roof of a single building will not dramatically impact the land or the forests..Fortunately god also thought ahead and made it possible for trees to reproduce themselves. I’m sure others could argue that not utilizing the resources that god has so graciously provided for man could also be taken as an insult (obviously when done so in a responsible manner and not to the point of completely depleting an otherwise limitless resource)

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted April 20, 2019 at 5:20 am | Permalink

            Bewilder is obviously referring to the Catlick love of carving images of their pantheon of saints & spirits – a practise regarded as idolatry [almost] in most other Christian sects.

            You are incorrect re the state of French trees – to reproduce the roof structure would require 1,300 mature oak trees – & I mean mature, not the stunted oak trees used for making barrel staves in France. There are few [or possibly none outside protected forest] oak trees tall enough to do the job. The preservation of oak forest is a serious business now that old growth forest is so rare that tree biologists [treeologists?] can name ALL of them!

            Notre-Dame de Paris can get by very well with a modern structural roof made of something lighter, stronger & less flammable – the nature of the structure is not apparent from the nave nor the outside so what’s the point of an invisible inferior copy of defunct technology?

            Since you are a fan of the cathedral you will be aware that it has constantly evolved & has moved with the technological times – the flying buttresses were added a long time after the main building was finished, the flying buttresses were extended & upgraded at an even later time, the original didn’t have a spire & soon it will be on its third spire – which will NOT be built of wood this time I assure you. No wood for the new roof please.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted April 20, 2019 at 10:20 am | Permalink

              Yes steel instead!

          • bewilderbeast
            Posted April 20, 2019 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

            So many words! They just sat F* the poor.

            • bewilderbeast
              Posted April 20, 2019 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

              sat = say

              • bewilderbeast
                Posted April 20, 2019 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

                Oof this is a clumsy system – no editing!
                I’m responding to Atheist4NotreDame, of course.
                Big Ups to Michael Fisher’s response.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      A look-alike timber structure could be fabricated from glue-laminated treated timber …

      Hey, these are the French we’re talkin’ about here, fella; they would as lief rebuild I.M. Pei’s pyramid at the Louvre from plexiglas, as lief serve bouillabaisse from a can. 🙂

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 16, 2019 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        You underestimate the sophistication of the Frogs Monsieur Ken. Illusion is central to their belief system as evidenced by the stories they tell themselves about the Nazi occupation & the willingness of spouses to pay no heed to signs of marital infidelity so long as the evidence is not paraded around town. Such illusions are essential to harmony & extend to the glass pyramid too – see the current work of JR below:

        jr2

        And another:

        France Disappearing Pyramid

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 16, 2019 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

          “… the willingness of spouses to pay no heed to signs of marital infidelity so long as the evidence is not paraded around town. Such illusions are essential to harmony …”

          Vive l’amour! Vive la compagnie!

    • Posted April 16, 2019 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

      Surely it would be wiser to support the new roof with steel beams rather than wood, so this event cannot be repeated. It’s not like the wooden beams were in public view anyway.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 17, 2019 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Assuming the stonework hasn’t been damaged in non-obvious ways (like cracking), it may not take too long to rebuild.

      I’d be concerned about the mortar. Complex stuff, mortar, and while it’s adhesion shouldn’t be necessary in columns and arches, when you’ve got off-axis loading changes (such as, losing the roof), then the tensile strength imparted by the mortar may be all that is holding it together.

      A look-alike timber structure could be fabricated from glue-laminated treated timber relatively quickly (so long as nobody insists on hand-sawn oak).

      Somebody probably will insist on the hand-sawn oak, in which case one had better get the acorns in the ground this autumn. Fabricating a functional roof from steel and fire-retardant plastics could be a matter of weeks, to protect the rest of the structure. And properly fire-compartmentalise the structure too. The survival of much of the stone vaulting means that future generations of tourists would only see it as a part of a tour.
      Now would probably be a good week to own stock in scaffolding equipment companies in Paris. They’re going to need to pretty-much fill the interior with bracing to prevent the walls coming inward, and probably surround the exterior with bracing to prevent the buttresses pushing the walls in. The removal a week or two ago of the pinnacle statues may be what saved the structure.

      • bewilderbeast
        Posted April 20, 2019 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

        “get the acorns in the ground this autumn” – Luvvit! 🙂

  2. GBJames
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    It is a great historic and artistic loss.

    Still…. the religious idiocy that flows freely at times like this is really hard to take.

    • bewilderbeast
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      It rained and stormed in Louisiana: God was acting out his wrath against the wickedness of gays and those who refuse to persecute them.
      The farking cathedral burns down at Easter, complete with spectacular collapse of the spire which was built to reach to the heavens: Um, . . probly faulty wiring.

  3. Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    If the fragment of the True Cross was lost they can always find another one on eBay.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      Hey, it comes with a Certificate of Authenticity. So it must be genuine.

      cr

    • Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      I love those and their Certificates of Authenticity (signed by God?). How can eBay be part of this scamming?

      • Harrison
        Posted April 16, 2019 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        Sites like eBay just want to let merchants and sellers do their thing while taking a cut for facilitating. They’ll step in to stop the types of scams where the customers walk away very unhappy, because they don’t want people to stop using their service, but they have no incentive to intervene when both scammer and scammee are happy with the transaction.

      • bewilderbeast
        Posted April 16, 2019 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        I don’t get it: Where’s the scam part in selling mythical stuff with mythical certificates about mythical stories?

        • rickflick
          Posted April 16, 2019 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

          As long as it says, “mythical”, on the back.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted April 16, 2019 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

            The authenticity depicted in this “artifact” is ficticious. Any similarity to actual artifacts, or to actual history, is purely coincidental.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted April 16, 2019 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

              oops on “fictitious”. I got too excited and mistyped.

            • rickflick
              Posted April 16, 2019 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

              They’ll have to enshrine this disclaimer by putting it on a sticker for easy application. Laws may have to be passed.

            • rickflick
              Posted April 16, 2019 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

              When it comes to truth and fiction, a little excitement is understandable.

    • Posted April 16, 2019 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Darned if I don’t have a nail that looks exactly like the one in the photo. Picked up mine at Chicago State University, where I started working the year it relocated there. I believe mine just might be *The* Authentic Nail.

      The land was bought from the Illinois Central Railroad, but still… it would be *even more* of a miracle as to how it ended up on the south side of Chicago.

      • bewilderbeast
        Posted April 16, 2019 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        Yeah! Sell it in Salt Lake City. Remember Jesus came to America. It may have been lodged in his foot up till it fell out in Illinois.

  4. dabertini
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Yes, the relics are about as real as Santa’s reindeer.

  5. Michael Fisher
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    The south transept rose window today. Glass intact:

    rose

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      I would suspect that most of the timber that burned was in the roof structure. So most of the heat went upwards in spectacular and highly visible flames and cold air was drawn up from below, thus helping to limit temperatures in the main volume of the church.

      That’s my theory, anyway.

      cr

      • Rick
        Posted April 16, 2019 at 10:34 am | Permalink

        In the post-fire pictures of the gold cross there are many intact candles visible. If they are actually wax candles, the heat must have been pretty low at floor level.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted April 17, 2019 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

          Big cathedrals have been using LED candles for a number of years. If you do a time-and-motion on the cost of even a minimum-wage flunky for the purpose of candle-changing, you’d pretty rapidly be changing them out too. Whether they have individual battery packs or a pack concealed in the ironmongery at a convenient altitude, I’ve never looked. Probably one battery pack per candelabrum.
          Assuming they’re items of modern manufacture, their fire resistance, non-production of toxic smoke on incineration and fault tolerance will all be matters of DIN type-approval certification.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    The chances that these [relics] are real are miniscule …

    I’d put the odds at an astronomical Shroud-of-Turin-to-1.

    (PS – Have we given up on spelling that word “minuscule”?)

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      On a reality scale of gravity at one end and Kolob at the other, I’d put the Shroud of Turin and these relics about ¾ of the way to Kolob.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:48 am | Permalink

        Kolob is nearly bollocks backwards. It’s a sign!

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 16, 2019 at 10:27 am | Permalink

          Ha ha! I never noticed that before!

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 17, 2019 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        “Kolob”? I’m not sure I want to know.

        Did I want to know? Short version made long : Mormon bullshit.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      And as long as I’m wallowing in pedantry:

      “… scores of priceless artifacts, artwork and relics collected over the centuries, each with their own story.

      I understand using the plural possessive with the singular “each” to avoid sexism when the antecedents are people, but why would CNN write “their” (rather than the singular “its”) when the antecedents are objects like “artifacts, artwork, and relics”?

      • stefan michaud
        Posted April 16, 2019 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

        I’m guessing it’s because the writer, editor, and proofreaders (assuming there are any) couldn’t figure out whether “its” requires an apostrophe when used in the possessive sense. It’s confusing.

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Indeed, the relics are most likely fake since hucksters selling these things were ubiquitous in the mediaeval period (even peddled by clergy) when Notre Dame was constructed; Chaucer even writes about these false relic sellers in the Canterbury Tales.

    It’s interesting to note the power of symbols, however, and their ability to persuade our sensibilities. An important lesson, I think, we can take when it comes to our own acts of persuasion.

    I wonder if any Christians have noted that the famous Catholic cathedral burned, during Holy Week and if they have attributed it to God telling us he is displeased with the goings-on of his Church….after all, there are Christians who seem quick to associate natural disaster with their God’s disdain for the gays and the feminists.

    • Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Or Satan’s love for chain-smoking Polish construction workers.

      • Terry Sheldon
        Posted April 16, 2019 at 10:26 am | Permalink

        There’s a great play (in which I once had the honor of performing) called “Incorruptible” about a monastery where the monks discover the fortunes that can be made by dealing in fake relics.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 16, 2019 at 10:40 am | Permalink

          Monasteries, convents, rectories, and their environs seem to provide fecund settings for stage dramas. Agnes of God and Doubt: a Parable come readily to mind.

          • Terry Sheldon
            Posted April 17, 2019 at 7:13 am | Permalink

            “Mass Appeal” and “The Runner Stumbles”, as well as the whole series of “Nunsense” musicals.

          • Filippo
            Posted April 17, 2019 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

            And comedies too, I gather, what with the BBC’s “The Vicar of Dibley.”

    • Desnes Diev
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      “I wonder if any Christians have noted that the famous Catholic cathedral burned, during Holy Week and if they have attributed it to God telling us he is displeased with the goings-on of his Church….after all, there are Christians who seem quick to associate natural disaster with their God’s disdain for the gays and the feminists.”

      Some may think that God is displeased after a Church that allow gays, feminists and atheists to be openly gay, feminist and atheist? (Btw, a famous gay district of Paris, le Marais, is not far away from Notre-Dame.) This deity has (allegedly) priorities and priests abusing children or protecting the abusers is not one of them. So, the (alleged) message may be perceived as “be thougher against the unfaithful”.

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted April 16, 2019 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        Indeed! Perhaps the Almighty is displaying its displeasure at the publication of ex-Pope Bennie’s lunatic, senile maunderings to the effect that the Swingin’ 60s were responsible for priestly paedophilia in the RCC: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/11/ex-pope-benedict-xvi-blames-sexual-abuse-on-swinging-sixties

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 17, 2019 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

        Btw, a famous gay district of Paris, le Marais, is not far away from Notre-Dame.)

        You think this is a coincidence?

        • Zetopan
          Posted April 20, 2019 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

          “You think this is a coincidence?”

          As A.D. White pointed out long ago, Gawd has notoriously bad aim. Lightening struck a church that refused to install lightening rods because that would thwart gawds will. The strike ignited the barrels of gunpowder in the basement with the expected result.

          Note that gawd routinely strikes the red states way more often than the far less pious states.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted April 20, 2019 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

            Maybe god is a Star Wars stormtrooper.

    • Mike Cracraft
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      Most of these phony relics were brought back to Europe during the crusades when Syria and Judea were pillaged. The myth of the true cross seems to have originated in the 4th century.

  8. Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    The relics in Notre Dame were supposedly collected by Empress Helena, a christian convert who bought a lot of Jesus souvenirs when she visited the Holy Land.

    If real, that’d make them almost 300 years old when Helena acquired them — a long time for some reeds and a splinter of wood to have survived. Now they are c. 1,975 years old.

    • bewilderbeast
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Can you imagine when word got out that this chick called Helena was buying shit? “Quick!” (insert Palestinian, Roman and Jewish names of the time here), “Fetch that old . . ” (insert useless stuff in the backyard here). “Tell her its that weirdo apocalypse preacher’s stuff.”

      • Posted April 16, 2019 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        But did they insist she haggle?

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 17, 2019 at 9:25 am | Permalink

          Obligatory Life of Brian reference duly noted… 😉

          cr

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 17, 2019 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      Empress Helena, a christian convert who bought a lot of Jesus souvenirs when she visited the Holy Land.

      As mother of the converted Emperor Constantine, she didn’t have that far to go to search the Palestinian and Judean provinces, and recovered the artefacts (regardless of their provenance) to Constantinople. How some of them got from there to Paris isn’t a story worth digging out.

      • bewilderbeast
        Posted April 20, 2019 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Agree. A lot of this kind of stuff is now in Washington DC thanks to Hobby Lobby selling junk and using that money to buy junk and smuggle it into America for a ‘Bible Museum!’ There just is no end to people’s gullibility and to other people’s willingness to exploit it!

  9. Hilton
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    From the USA TODAY ” One of the city’s five senior vicars , Philippe Marsset , told the associated press : ” If God intervened ( in the blaze ) it was in the courage of the firefighters . “

    • Posted April 16, 2019 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      Does this mean, the courage of the firefighters was not their own?

      This of course is tongue in cheek.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 16, 2019 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        Yes, just like the surgeon’s hands are guided by Jesus, the doctor’s skill is a miracle from God, the survivor of a crash is saved by a guardian angle. All the ones who perish or fail – that’s their fault.

        • Posted April 16, 2019 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

          I had a problem with my post. It was half hearted. Any attribute I might actually have is actually a matter of ultimate luck.

        • rickflick
          Posted April 16, 2019 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

          You make me imagine having my brain operated on by Ben Carson. Remember his portrait with JC? He thinks he’s his home boy.

          • merilee
            Posted April 17, 2019 at 9:52 am | Permalink

            LOL. I’m surprised that Trump doesn’t have a portrait of JC next to his own charitably-purchased one, with JC’s much smaller of course.

            • rickflick
              Posted April 17, 2019 at 10:20 am | Permalink

              Smaller…especially the hands.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted April 17, 2019 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

            Who was that Faux News presenter with the hand washing phobia? One of Carson’s instructors, or one of his patients?

            • rickflick
              Posted April 17, 2019 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

              eeeek!

        • Filippo
          Posted April 17, 2019 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

          A few weeks ago I saw Carson interviewed. He uttered words-to-the-effect that taking his current cabinet position was a financial “sacrifice.” I take it that he knew that before he took the job, yet one has to bear up under his whaahing about it. A minimum 90% of working stiffs would see his cabinet salary as largess. Am reminded of hearing some U.S. representative, soon to leave public service, saying that he intended to make “some real money.”

  10. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I am holding out for Hitler’s pencil box. Not sure if it was there but must check the inventory listed for insurance purposes.

    I believe some of the best fire detectives can determine cause if given a chance to do their work and it is important that they do this. Before starting up another massive reconstruction it might be a good idea to prevent the same thing again. Maybe they could add some 21 century fire protection into the job as well. For many years people built buildings and cities and then watched them burn and said, oh well. Today we are suppose to be a little smarter.

    When you build to great height with anything you go beyond the ability to fight fire. We have been doing this for a thousand years so why stop now.

    • bewilderbeast
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Oh ye of little faith! Raise a billion, filch some, then build and pray . .

      • A C Harper
        Posted April 16, 2019 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

        Amongst others, all those Christians prepared to spend money on restoring an old building rather than healing the sick, feeding the hungry…

        • bewilderbeast
          Posted April 16, 2019 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

          They are SO un-Christ-like, it’s astonishing!

        • Posted April 16, 2019 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

          Not Christian, but that wonderful old building is well worth repairing. (Healing the sick and feeding the hungry are also worth doing. Not mutually exclusive.)

          • bewilderbeast
            Posted April 20, 2019 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

            Oh they’ll be mutually exclusive alright! Bet on it!

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 17, 2019 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      For a very long time, gunpowder was the most effective tool available for firefighting.

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    (could there be Jesus’s DNA on it from bloodstains?)

    Were it to be tested, and the DNA results came back not in the standard A, C, G, T sequence, but as spelling out “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” — well, that would be one of those things that could make me rethink my fundamental skepticism.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      That or “INRI” (“Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”) would be the only things that could shake my skepticism. If there was any DNA found, what would they match it with? DNA from he Holy Foreskin? There are about 16 of them scattered around Europe. Real or not (and I know they ain’t real), that’s my favorite relic of all.

      I think it’s hilarious that E-Bay is selling “relics.” I’ve got a Crown of Thorns that I made; maybe I’ll offer it on E-Bay. I can get someone named Jesus to authenticate it.

      Then there are the relics of the Old Testament, a scrap of fig leaf, wood from the ark,etc. I love all these crazy items.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 16, 2019 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        If there was a historical Jesus, and if there were DNA from him, I suppose they could test the Y chromosome to see if the Blessed Virgin Mary wasn’t actually so virginal, but maybe bumped uglies with either a Roman centurion or an old Jew like Joseph.

        • bewilderbeast
          Posted April 20, 2019 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

          Is it very wicked that that cracked me up!!?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 17, 2019 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      I see a technical problem with that – since you’ve only got four ‘letters’ available, how do you unambiguously write an English (?) sentence with them? I suppose there are various encodings available; after all, to the computer, all this is written in binary, so I guess you convert your preferred text to ASCII and write it in just A’s and C’s… (A=0, C=1)

      Since G*d is omniscient He would have been able to foresee exactly how ASCII worked, so no problem there…

      cr

      • merilee
        Posted April 17, 2019 at 10:11 am | Permalink

        Well we know it musta been in English: Dubya told us so.

      • rickflick
        Posted April 17, 2019 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        Wasn’t the Universe written in ASCII?

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 17, 2019 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        Don’t forget to specify the parity, stop bit, word length (do you really need to bother with upper case/ lower case?) … We all struggled through setting the AT codes to get communication up and working.

    • bewilderbeast
      Posted April 20, 2019 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      That, plus a prediction that made me some real money . .

  12. W.Benson
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    I wanted to make similar deprecatory comments on the reporting yesterday, but decided it unseemly to do so before the embers had cooled. Very shortly we can expect to see lists of “relics” that “miraculously” survived the fire, thereby “proving” their authenticity. The fire itself, of course, will be chalked up to bad luck or faulty wiring.

    • bewilderbeast
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      Yep. Nothing God could have done about it . . He never could figure out this modern wiring shit.

  13. RGT
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    It wouldn’t be difficult to authenticate via dried blood that the crown of thorns was actually worn by Jesus, he was haploid.

    • Posted April 16, 2019 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      😀

    • bewilderbeast
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      🙂
      +5

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 17, 2019 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      I’d be tempted to use a non-contact mineralogy assayer on it (battery-powered X-ray fluorescence, typically. I’d be putting my money on high levels of mercury (cinnabar), arsenic (orpiment) or other heavy metals with red pigments derived from them. Not that I’m hinting at mediaeval fakery and credulousness, oh no!
      I think those machines aren’t terribly sensitive to low-Z nuclii … but that raises the question of what the protective covering is. It looks to have appreciable wear, and would be an utter oink to make from rock crystal, so I’m going to have to think about that fora a bit.

    • Zetopan
      Posted April 20, 2019 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

      If it was haploid it would need to be female since no Y chromosome would be present. This would obviously be another miracle – a haploid male.

  14. Posted April 16, 2019 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    For some reason I am imagining the clerics scurrying around saving the “relics” while the flames of a turned-over votive candle engulf the altar curtains.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      That’s how I imagine it too. In my rendering, they are all benedictine monks for some reason. Clearly, I have no experience with church other than what I see on mediaeval television dramas.

      • Posted April 16, 2019 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        Those benedictine monks, I do enjoy their liqueur.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      I was worried they might grab a bag of useless old bones and ignore the Leonardo hanging on the altar. 🙄

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 16, 2019 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        “Bag of useless old bones” seems a good insult for a skinny guy if you don’t like him….and he’s over 30.

        • rickflick
          Posted April 16, 2019 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

          I like it. I’ll keep it in mind for my visits to the elderly care facility. I can use it, humorously, to keep them from falling asleep during my piano recitals. Unfortunately, the only piece I know is Chopin’s Piano Sonata No 2, the Funeral March.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 17, 2019 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

        Oh, is that what happened to di-Caprio’s career? Some Italian family made him an employment offer he couldn’t refuse.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 17, 2019 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      Another reason that churches have been switching to LED candles for years.

  15. BJ
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Well, you know how much I like ragging on the NYT’s reporting these days, but I see nothing wrong with the quote in your post. The items are “historic” regardless of their provenance, as (I assume) they’ve been there and worshiped for hundreds of years. The fact that they’re items that have been in one of the world’s most important structures and worshiped for centuries does make them “historic.”

    • Posted April 16, 2019 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      I agree, but the writers do not seem to imply such historicity.

  16. koseighty
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    “Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris” is a charity that has for years raised money to help with the upkeep and preservation of the famous cathedral.

    As I share this, their site hasn’t been updated with news of the fire and you can still see the projects they hoped to help with.

    They are registered as a charity in the U.S. and have been for years. So, if you’re looking for a real way to help (so many scams pop up after something like this happens), their donation page can be found here:

    http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/friends/donate/

    • bewilderbeast
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, if you want “to help” in 2019, send some money to somewhere far away that doesn’t help the poor.

      • Posted April 16, 2019 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

        Without culture, such as Notre Dame, everyone on the planet would be poor. Besides, giving money to the poor is a double-edged sword.

        • bewilderbeast
          Posted April 17, 2019 at 12:16 am | Permalink

          Ja, Maya, ja. I’d be happy if they’d just stop TAKING money from the poor. Y’know, pay their taxes? No more bailouts?

    • Posted April 16, 2019 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for posting this.

  17. Posted April 16, 2019 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Religion is so ingrained, people probably speak of things like deities and relics as if they’re everyday and valid elements of our lives.

  18. Roger
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    God let it burn because too many billions of doallars were sitting around not doing anything. Now they can be used to rebuild the church.

    • W.Benson
      Posted April 17, 2019 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      Somehow what you say rings true. With so much human need around the world, it says a lot about “values”.

  19. Jon Gallant
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    The provenance of the holy relics in Notre Dame is a delightful story in itself, being an indirect result of the 4th Crusade. The Crusaders, bankrolled and manipulated by the wily Venetians, decided to conquer Greek Orthodox Constantinople instead of Muslim territory. [Who knows, maybe they feared being charged with “Islamophobia”.] They duly sacked the city in 1204, while the Venetians more carefully looted every church relic and artwork that wasn’t nailed to something else (some of which are still at St. Marks in Venice). The Latin conquerors installed a Latin Emperor in Constantinople, Baldwin of Flanders, and his office passed to his nephew, Baldwin II, in 1228. The latter, better known as Baldwin the Broke, spent his life hocking things to pay off debts: he pawned the Crown of Thorns to a Venetian bank in 1238, other relics to Louis IX of France, and even turned his son and heir Phillip over to Venetian merchants as security for still another loan. King Louis later redeemed the Crown of Thorns from the Venetians and deposited it, as well as the holy nail, the holy lance, etc. etc. in Paris. Yesterday’s fire at Notre Dame might mean that God was just foreclosing on a 2nd or 3rd mortgage.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for that! Plus ca change and all that. But somehow I doubt we’ll be hearing any real history from the fund-raisers – and the hucksters who will follow in their wake – in the months to come.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      This is fascinating! I’ll have to read up on it. I second the thanks.

    • Posted April 16, 2019 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

      Interesting.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 17, 2019 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Saved me Wiki-ing it, thanks. And as delightfully sordid and mercenary a tale as I expected.
      I hope Dan Brown isn’t listening, but there’s probably a book or several in there.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Frickin’ historians with frickin’ lasers!

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 17, 2019 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        Indiana Jones and the Last Jedi?

        I’m really going to regret having written that, aren’t I?
        Maybe it’ll be better as a musical. Everything is better as a musical. Isn’t it?

  20. bewilderbeast
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    So a frickin shrine to all that’s wrong with the world burns down and within hours enough money is pledged by robber barons to restore it. But none of them would have had a dime to contribute to real genuine human needs.
    NO, we can’t do that! Charity would make people lazy! The poor must work for their money AS WE DID.
    Liars.
    Thieves.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      Amen!

    • Posted April 16, 2019 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      I cannot understand what problem you have with people spending their own money (robbed or otherwise) to restore cultural and historical heritage, rather than to buy votes, as you seem to suggest.

      This heritage is cherished and considered extremely valuable by practically everyone I know, rich AND poor, except you.

  21. Posted April 16, 2019 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  22. boggy
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    France passed its secularity law in 1905 which excluded the Church from education and administration, but in return agreed to fund repairs and renovations in churches existing at that time. So there will be no problem with funding of the repairs, and I am sure there are enough trained carpenters to do the work. I live near La Rochelle where an historic building was destroyed by fire some years ago and is almost ready for reopening.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 17, 2019 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      and I am sure there are enough trained carpenters to do the work.

      Please no. Not wood. Pretty much anything but wood. It might be a church, but surely people learn from their mistakes.

  23. rickflick
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    I just saw this in WAPO: “I am not religious myself; I’m an atheist,” said one man who launched an online funding campaign for the cathedral. “But this is beyond religion.”

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      I wish all the atheists would stop apologizing for caring about the building.

      • Posted April 16, 2019 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        Maybe it is not an apology but saying it for the record, because believers often say that atheists do not donate for the common good.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 16, 2019 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

          It’s all over Twitter. Atheists proclaiming, “I’m an atheist but I love the building because it’s a testament to …..” Good grief, stop telling everyone that. I’m an atheist that likes lots of things; if believers can’t get that they can suck it.

  24. Steve Pollard
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Hear hear! Nice to know that F-H Pinault and Total have 100m Euros each in spare cash; and that LVMH and L’Oreal have found 200m each down the back of the sofa. Goodness knows what they might have spent those sums on if ND hadn’t providentially caught fire.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, that was supposed to be a response to Bewilderbeast at 21.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, meant this to be a response to bewilderbeast at 21.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      Bugger me, another double post; I do apologise.

      • bewilderbeast
        Posted April 17, 2019 at 12:22 am | Permalink

        🙂 I wish we could edit! Frustrating . .

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 17, 2019 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      I’ve no idea who FH Pinault is, but to Total, a 100 M€ is the cost of a couple of HPHT deep-sea wells with few complications. They’ll have that in their contingency fund, just in case one of their on-going projects goes pear-shaped.
      In other contexts, it’s about 0.025 of a Deepwater Horizon/ Macondo.

  25. JezGrove
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    To be fair to the BBC, Evan Davis interviewed Neil MacGregor, former director of the British Museum, about the supposed relics on today’s PM show. Davis pressed MacGregor on whether they were what they are claimed to be. MacGregor clarified that this was only the belief of “the faithful”.

    • merilee
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      +mucho

  26. CAS
    Posted April 16, 2019 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Notre Dame in its’ present state is the perfect metaphor for the Catholic Church. Leave it as it is for future generations to reflect on their hubris. Spend the billion dollars on rescuing something beautiful and inspiring that is vanishing. Save the snow leopard!

    • bewilderbeast
      Posted April 17, 2019 at 12:24 am | Permalink

      Hear hear! Sell the couple acres it’s on and save a thousand acres of wilderness.

  27. Posted April 16, 2019 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    It wasn’t holy before it certainly is now.
    Holy Nails is a good metal band name.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 17, 2019 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      Holy Nails is a good metal band name.

      A death metal band, with their own chain of fingernail parlours. I love the idea. Who’s that guy with the make up – “We’re Not Worthy!” – sell him the idea.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 17, 2019 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

        I think Holy Nails could be a good black metal band.

  28. Posted April 16, 2019 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    “Completely independent” may be going a bit far. The Cathedral was built by people who believed in that mythology. The very existence of the building depends on and expresses that faith. I don’t really see how the “value and beauty of Notre Dame” can be viewed as “completely independent” of the mythology that inspired it any more than beauty and meaning can separated in any work of art. Just a secondary point in the overall thrust of this thread, and perhaps not worth the effort of making.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 16, 2019 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

      No, you’re right. The cathedral is not independent of it’s sacred origins. The appreciation of art is both independent of it’s motivations and enlarged by understanding it’s context. I love the frescoes of Giotto even if he was motivated by some religious convictions. Some people see Notre Dame as sacred and others as an elegant expression of humanities capacity for creating beauty.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted April 16, 2019 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

        “The appreciation of art is both independent of its motivations and enlarged by understanding its context.”

        How true. How elegantly and succinctly stated. ei (‘), U ewnicws rgw aoisteiogw. [No typo].

        • rickflick
          Posted April 16, 2019 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

          I have no idea what that means, but it sounds totally awesome. 😎

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted April 17, 2019 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

            It’s not ROT13.

            • rickflick
              Posted April 17, 2019 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

              We could run it through the Star Trek, voice translator, but that would require voicing it.

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted April 18, 2019 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

                Well, if we’re going to play that game, Google Translate.
                Which oscillates between Croatian and Vietnamese. I suspect this isn’t going to end well for Gooble Throughdeceased. … And it doesn’t, or there’s a way I can’t find for checking it against High Valerian with a Klingon-Quenya accent.
                I gather that GOT is doing horrible things to the science of obsidian. I’ll have to remember to read the second book (etc) some time this year.

              • rickflick
                Posted April 18, 2019 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

                Isn’t there a newish app that translates while you converse? I’ve seen it advertised. It would be a good test of it’s utility to have an automated reader voice the text and see what the app has to say about it.

  29. Jonathan Dore
    Posted April 17, 2019 at 2:34 am | Permalink

    From an art-historical point of view, which to my mind is the most important aspect, the things of value are obviously the reliquaries rather than the “relics” they contain, which of course could be easily replaced/manufactured, as they no doubt have been many times in the past.

  30. Posted April 17, 2019 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    the chances are very high that these relics are dubious

    I think that is masterful understatement. There are enough nails and wood fragments from the True Cross in existence for Ken Ham to build a substantial new Ark replica.

    If the crucifixion really happened, it’s likely that the “True Cross” would have been reused for future executions.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 17, 2019 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      Yes. Good point. The likely scenario would be it is reused for executions, but as time went on would likely have been used in some building construction, trees being a scarce commodity in the ME. Keeping track of it for the creation of relics would not have been possible.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 17, 2019 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

        but as time went on would likely have been used in some building construction, trees being a scarce commodity in the ME.

        But the historical record also includes a number of references to the Egyptians buying “the cedars of Lebanon” for their military purposes. And the Phonecians (also on the Syria/ Lebanon coast, Acre, Tyre, etc) didn’t build their infamous Mediterranean-wide trading network without good supplies of timber.
        The modern Middle East has suffered from millennia of soil damage and over-farming since the Romans. It was a considerably different place in those times.

        • rickflick
          Posted April 17, 2019 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

          If trees were plentiful, then the relics must be real. 😎

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted April 18, 2019 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

            Wooden splinters from the cross of a mad preacher, or from the death agonies of the father of Herod’s first grandchild? I know which way I’d bet.

            • rickflick
              Posted April 18, 2019 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

              Speaking of which, I have some splinters right here somewhere…

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted April 17, 2019 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      It is a mystery. Given that the folk lore is there, you would expect to see a lot of these, yet no historical account from two different historical sources is there. The one spike through a heel is well known; the two spikes through hands are new to me; and the “missing, recovered and certified through bone” spikes sound like more fakes; that is not much!

      Moreover, it is inconsistent with the folk lore; a single spike from the side of the foot – that are not load bearing – instead of through ankles in front; two single spikes through hands – that are not load bearing – instead of through wrists in front. And the absence of other spikes and putative use of rope for torture is hand waved away as expensive – so why use them in the first place – while the retaining is because they were purposefully bent against removal in these “rare” cases. In all cases tree fibers are not tied to piece of crosses but in the foot case seems to have been a growing tree.

      My take is that the folk lore goes back to the historical (two independent sources verified) traumatic Hellenistic conquest mass torture and killings at Tyre roping thousands of people to logs in X formation. While the spike finds are unrelated burial finds, perhaps when burial (or less likely torture) arrangements went wrong. I can’t exclude crucifixion, but the evidence is weak and alternative theories seem stronger.

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted April 17, 2019 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        Just to be clear, I am criticizing the whole idea of crucifixion in the first place. When people are killed in “everyday” life – i.e. not strife or sacrifice – the evidence is scant. For instance the later time rather common hanging method is not well attested until late in Europe.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted April 17, 2019 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          For instance the later time rather common hanging method is not well attested until late in Europe.

          I’m not sure what you mean. There are archaeological traces – a number of “bog bodies” have marks of strangulation by rope (which may or may not have been hanging from above – garotting is also possible), and plenty of cultural references – Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, the like. It may have been so simple as to not require much mention.
          You can use the rope again, unless you’re leaving the body strung up “pour encourager les autres”.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 17, 2019 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        “missing, recovered and certified through bone”

        I amber-flagged on this too. Short of finding bone fragments embedded in the iron, I struggle to work out what “certified through bone” could possibly mean.
        There’s a long record of trace element and isotopic analysis of metals that would give a provenance for the metal in a matter of minutes. One does wonder why such tests haven’t been applied.
        There is the report of Appian concerning Crassus’ crucifixion of several thousand prisoners from the Third Servile War (“I’m Spartacus!”), which suggests that crucifixion wasn’t exactly unknown in the 70s BCE.

  31. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 17, 2019 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    As to the contents of old churches, I have to say I find the relics in the Priory of St-Martin-des-Champs to be far more interesting.

    Admittedly that’s probably because it now comprises part of the Musee des Arts et Metiers

    (I walked past the front entrance several times because I was looking for a museum, not a church)

    cr
    …Okay so I’m a philistine

  32. Slade welsch
    Posted April 19, 2019 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Great read. And so damn true. So damn sad humans would enter a fire anyway, to save a made up relic…..yet if you hear god speak to you, youre insane… or people who actually believe in santa are insane….what a joke. Fallowers i tell you.


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