The way we view history is symbolic of so much within our present lives. It directly feeds into the view we have towards our current society, us falling prey to the same apathetic mindset of our lineages. When history is destroyed, all of our ancestors’ memories, and what we can take with us from our ancestors, goes right along with it.
I want us to think about how we build trust in new acquaintances. What happens when a new acquaintance begins to talk negatively about another individual not present at the conversation. That negative dialogue initiates the ventrolateral frontal cortex to work at processing what we have just heard, often times we determine that someone talking bad about someone behind their back may mean that we need to expect the same type of treatment from this acquaintance.
History, the present and the future all fall under the same rules of conduct. How we view history is going to determine how history views us. If we spend our time focusing on frivolous and short-lived desires, what value will the future have with us? If we concentrate on the stories of our ancestors, ensure that the future is a place full of impactful choices from our modern time, we may someday have an 800-year-old legacy from the 21st century.
When we think of the great Notre-Dame de Paris, we can’t help but to feel in awe of the elegance, the effort and the conviction present within its architecture. One of the coolest facts is also one of the most over-looked. The fact that the outside of the church was designed to help illiterate people discern their own messages from the stories from the bible. A relevance completely lost today, yet when you look at the non-literary success of Instagram and snapchat, you begin to see a lot of closer connections.
Humans have an innate connection to the visual world around themselves, we have made multi-trillion-dollar investments into the visual display of messages and information in the 21st century. Notre-Dame pre-dates this visualization of data by dozens of generations, by providing the important messages in the days of our ancestors in a visually digestible way.
The gargoyle statues, the late grotesque statues, the depictions of morality, saint-hood and the message of Christian ideologies in visual format was the Instagram of the 13th century. You don’t have to agree with the message but have to applaud the dance of skillful craftsmanship, telling a story not easily deciphered into words, let alone depictions in stone.
Imagine being an illiterate person from the middle ages, life is pretty grim but the institutional presence of the church being comparable with the weight we throw at the NFL draft, the presidential elections or even the Olympics today. An illiterate peasant, with no context of art, philosophy or science. The visual depictions on the face of Notre-Dame must have truly inspired dozens of generations with the stories it tells.
One of the most fascinating things about Notre-Dame de Paris does not even incorporate the church itself. We have to go way back in time for this story, we have to go pack to when Barbarians ruled Gaul, modern day France.
Julius Caesar mentioned the Parisii, a Gallic tribe, in his writings about his conquering of Gaul. There was a tribe of Gallic people situated on an island on the Seine. Archaeologists are split between the actual origin of this island, whether it be the Île de la Cité or elsewhere along the Seine River. In either case, the history of Gallic people in modern Paris is certain.
The rich history of Roman-Gaul is one of deep pagan beliefs, the combining of religious deities between the Roman and Gallic people is an important story in both the development of the Roman Empire and of the development of early Frankish history.
Around the first century AD, the Gallo-Roman town was settled in the heart of modern Paris, at modern Montagne Sainte Geneviève. Very close to the island which is home to Notre-Dame de Paris. This location was central to the development of Paris as a strong center of both Roman might and Gallic conviction.
In the 4th century, a true legacy was discovered on the Île de la Cité, near our Notre-Dame de Paris. The Pilier de nautes was discovered, which has its origins dated around the first century AD, when Roman-Gaul occupied Paris was just beginning. This pillar was built to honor the deity Jupiter in only a Roman-Gallic way, with the combining of ancient Greco-Roman pantheon with earthly elements present within Gallic traditions. The island along the Seine, is proved to have spiritual connections for all people who have visited the island for over 2 millennia now.
The Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris is not just a modern temple of Christian worship, it is a pinnacle of symbolism for mankind’s quest to understand the spiritual realm. Our connection with what can not be proven, our connection to ethical dilemma and society’s place within the roots of tradition. How faith propels the ambitions of mankind while comforting our dark innards.
For 2 millennia, we have toiled with knowing what can not be known beyond the dictations of faith, all present within the symbolism of our modern institutions. Notre-Dame de Paris is our modern connection with faith, it is our modern connection with the faith’s of our pagan ancestors, and most importantly it demonstrates how progress can never truly usurp our longing desire for that which is unreachable.