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PARIS (ChurchMilitant.com) - Woke restoration plans approved by the archbishop of Paris are threatening to turn France's fire-ravaged Notre-Dame Cathedral into a "temple of globalization" resembling a "politically correct Disneyland," leading architects and art critics are warning.
Archbishop Michel Aupetit and his "wreckovators" plan to turn the world's most iconic medieval Gothic cathedral into a "space for experimentation," according to plans leaked to Britain's The Telegraph.
Modern art murals with sound and light effects to create "emotional spaces" will replace altars, confessionals and classical sculptures, "bringing the cathedral into the 21st century while preserving its own identity in the spirit of the Christian tradition," Aupetit believes.
"Let's take the opportunity to reread the space with a clear principle: We want a liturgical place open to all," the archbishop, who is normally known to be theologically orthodox, reflected in the early stages of the reconstruction project.
Now, Aupetit has offered to step down, owing to reports of an "ambiguous" relationship with a woman, Le Figaro reported Friday — even though the archbishop maintains it was neither a "love affair" nor a "sexual relationship."
The cathedral's modernist refit could be stalled if Pope Francis accepts the archbishop's resignation or if France's National Commission on Heritage and Architecture (CNPA) rejects or modifies the controversial plans at their upcoming meeting on Dec. 9.
French heritage experts revealed that the mastermind behind the "wreckovation" is 55-year-old Fr. Gilles Drouin, director of the Higher Institute of Liturgy at the Catholic Institute of Paris. The liturgist was appointed by Aupetit to oversee the cathedral's restoration.
"When I visited Tibet, I was in awe of all these magnificent temples. I would have liked so much to understand what was going on there. I saw a mystery, but I didn't have the keys!" remarked Fr. Drouin, defending his proposals as an outreach to tourists visiting Notre-Dame.
"Before the fire of 2019, 12 million visitors came each year to Notre-Dame with multiple motivations. Among them, many were of non-Christian or even post-Christian culture. They need to be given the keys to understanding the meaning of the place," he explained.
But well-known art critic and biblical scholar Caroline Kaye warned that the revamp would create "not hallowed but hollowed out emotional spaces."
After seeing the plans, Kaye, a painter and religious art historian, told Church Militant:
The secularists who confuse religion with "comfort" and "feeling" completely miss the robust challenges that many of the faithful endure and gain strength from. Apart from the obvious fact that a space cannot experience emotion, the question of what the "emotional spaces" offered by the new version of Notre-Dame Cathedral will offer visitors remains open.
The fashionistas seem to have seduced the clergy toward a mirage of future progress on condition that they turn away from the "past" in a futile and malevolent attempt at overcoming it. We rush towards the future at our peril.
While the roof (which was almost totally ravaged by the fire) and much of the exterior will be faithfully restored, the interior, which escaped the inferno's destruction, will be dramatically altered and modernized.
Drouin first explained his radical ideas in a webcast on May 12, focusing on a total redesign of the cathedral's side chapels (remodeled in 1862 by traditionalist architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who also designed the spire that collapsed during the fire). The liturgist's restoration project will revamp the 14 side chapels based on three themes: the promises, the saints and the continents. Father Drouin claims the remodeling will enable visitors to "live in chapels through culture."
The seven chapels on the north side of the cathedral will form the "alley of promises" and will be devoted to Genesis, Abraham, Exodus, the prophets, the Song of Solomon and Wisdom.
A "continental" chapel dedicated to Africa will form the centerpiece of this row.
The south side will house "the aisle of the saints," with chapels devoted to faith and reason, mysticism, charity, hope, mission and reconciled creation.
The middle chapel in this row will be dedicated to the continent of Asia.
The chapel dedicated to creation is expected to be the climactic culmination of the south aisle, with a resounding affirmation of Pope Francis' eco-encyclical Laudato Si'.
"With a weary inevitability, the trail's culmination is an ill-defined and untested political construct of 'environmentalism,'" Kaye lamented. "It is a new idolatry where Mother Earth replaces Mother Mary."
"The emphasis upon Africa and Asia in the discovery-trail experience will exclude the Church's Israelite roots for sure, and no Hebrew will adorn the walls in what would have been a truly reconciliatory and radical gesture," she noted.
"The Stations of the Cross are transformed into an exciting 'new' discovery trail, as if there had never been anything to discover beforehand," Kaye commented. "Why pray for spiritual guidance, inspiration or confession when we have a shiny new scientific religion?"
Prize-winning architect Maurice Culot excoriated the plans as creating "a kind of theme park" and as "very childish and trivial given the grandeur of the place." "It's as if Disney were entering Notre-Dame," he sniped.
However, architect Patrick Rimoux, who is partnering with Fr. Drouin, insisted that the new plans would include projecting biblical verses on the cathedral walls using machines with a power of 6,000 lumens.
Visitors admire paintings and symbols without necessarily understanding their meaning, and words are as important as images and sculptures, observes Rimoux, explaining how the texts will be projected in Mandarin, French, Spanish and English.
The controversial reconstruction also recommends stripping the cathedral of seating, except during major celebrations, for which "mobile" pews will be placed in the central nave. Seating will be removed for weekly services using a freight elevator to store the pews underground.
Churches did not have pews until two centuries ago, notes Drouin, arguing that pews are a product of the Protestant Reformation, "which transformed churches into university classrooms," and of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, which "transformed churches into performance halls."
Anglican cathedrals in Britain are now often used for banquets and secular functions, necessitating the regular removal of seating — a factor in accelerated wear and tear on the floor of those cathedrals.
The "Disneyfication" of Anglican cathedrals has provoked outrage among both religious and secular Britons.
Examples of Anglican cathedrals desecrating sacred spaces are legion, including:
Meanwhile, a Vatican source told Church Militant that Aupetit was being ousted by "an enterprise of destabilization from pressure groups, relayed by unscrupulous journalists." "Some of his ill-fitting decisions have aroused resentment," but the "accusation of an affair is undoubtedly a slander," the source said.
In September, Aupetit banned the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) from more than half the churches where it was regularly celebrated, permitting only five churches in Paris to use the old rite.