cover image Notre-Dame: A Short History of the Meaning of Cathedrals

Notre-Dame: A Short History of the Meaning of Cathedrals

Ken Follett. Viking, $17 (80p) ISBN 978-1-984880-25-3

In this concise and informative work, written to raise money for the restoration of Notre Dame after its recent fire, Follett (Eye of the Needle) focuses on six key dates in the cathedral’s history. These include 1163, when work first began on constructing a Gothic church; 1831, when Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame was published, helping to immortalize the structure; and 1844, when Viollet-Le-Duc began his controversial restoration of the crumbling building. Another significant date, 1944, was when Charles de Gaulle boldly faced snipers to walk 190 feet to the cathedral’s front pew to commemorate the ousting of the Nazis from Paris. Follett, whose novel The Pillars of the Earth concerns the building of a medieval cathedral, brings his expert scene building to these snippets of Notre Dame’s history. He packs a great deal into a short space, emphasizing that, starting as a Romanesque structure and ending with current post-fire rebuilding efforts, Notre Dame has never been a church unaltered; instead, the monument has been reinvented many times during its long history. Follett’s appreciative tribute provides comfort that the scars of the recent fire will pass, as well. This satisfying book will be a must-read for those interested in the rebuilding of Notre Dame. (Oct.)