“Is Paris Burning?” Pics for Notre Dame

“Is Paris Burning?” Hitler reportedly asked the question on 25 August 1944. He had given orders for the French capital to be torched as Nazi forces retreated in order to spite the Allies. The Wehrmacht commanders defied Der Fuhrer’s order and Paris was preserved.* Today, however, one of the great monuments saved from insanity in 1944 is in flames.

As Notre Dame burns, I—like anyone that has experienced the magnificent cathedral—am filled with sadness and reflection. Many others are already holding forth on the cultural loss and meaning of the church. Rather than presume to add meaningfully to that dialogue, I’ll share some of my pictures of the monument in happier times.

Boobah, the Princess, and Mrs Ancient Dan across the Seine from Notre Dame, 12 March 1999 (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr)

I am very thankful that Mrs. Ancient Dan and I decided to invest in giving our children the experience of travel and, hopefully, an appreciation of cultural treasures and a global outlook. One of the things they enjoyed in person was Notre Dame.

Many of my visits to the cathedral were during long layovers at Paris’ CDG airport while leading student study-travel programs to Mediterranean countries. If I had six hours, I felt it was possible to take a train into the city (about 40 minutes), see a couple of sites, and make it back and through security to catch the flight on to Turkey, Greece, Jordan, or Israel. Notre Dame was always on the itinerary. Some thought I was crazy to try it; but in retrospect the risk was rather worth the reward—especially now that the cathedral is un-visitable (at least for the near future).

The 2015 STEP Greece trip group outside the iconic facade of Notre Dame during a blitz-tour on a layover in Paris (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, )
Notre Dame from the Pont de l’Archevêché, a “Love Lock” bridge, with students on a layover blitz-tour in 2014 (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2014-10-31)
Students at a votive candle stand inside Notre Dame with one of the rose windows behind (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2015-05-28)
The rose window; irreplaceable, I expect (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2015-05-28)
The rose windows get all the glory, but I really like the ones around the apse at the E end (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2014-10-31)

So . . . I have not named the General who defied Hitler’s order to burn Paris. This is intentional, because he did carry out other orders from on high and liquidated the Jews of the city during his tenure as occupying commander. That certainly stains his memory. But I am thankful to him for preserving the city and thus Notre Dame to be appreciated for nearly an additional 75 years.

Notre Dame in happier times (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2015-05-28)

* The story is well told in: Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, Is Paris Burning? Penguin Books, 1966. This engaging book was later made into a motion picture.

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Pics of St. Patrick’s Day: How the Irish Saved Civility*

Mrs. Ancient Dan had always wanted to visit Ireland, mainly because her dad had related accounts of his Irish ancestry. I was raised with a Protestant British distaste for the Irish, but with a suppressed knowledge of some Irish blood (revealed by the scattered red hairs visible when I allow my beard to grow). But I, too, wanted to see the place. So, we planned a trip for May of 2016.

Totally unexpected and traumatic things happened 9 days before the planned journey—events that completely disrupted our life and, perhaps worse, seemingly confirmed my cynicism about humanity. Our world was shattered. Nevertheless we decided to go to Ireland anyway, now more for escape from reality than anything else . . . and with dour hearts.

What we found there was a people of considerable politeness, kindness, and civility; just what we needed for encouragement. Mrs. A.D. and I had debated over what the “prototypical” Irish person would be (I argued for a red-headed girl). We were both right . . . and both wrong. I now think of the Irish in terms of temperament rather than outward appearance. And I thank them for challenging me to examine the way I treat others.

Oh, and Ireland itself is pretty nice too. We also “argued” over the “prototypical” Irish scene. We were both right, again. I’ll let pictures tell the story for the rest of this post.

First, the pic-out to St. Patrick: he gestures to Station Island in Lough Derg, site of St Patrick’s Purgatory. On the island, Patrick was shown a cave leading to Purgatory. The island became a center of Christian pilgrimage with penitential stations for preparation to visit that waystation of the Underworld! Those who know me well are aware that I am fascinated with ancient spots considered entrances to the Netherworld . . . but, sadly, the cave has been sealed and covered since 1632 and only genuine pilgrims are allowed out the island today on multi-day visits (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-17)
My pre-trip image of Ireland: abandoned churches with lichen-encrusted tombstones; this is the Hill of Slane (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-09)
Mrs A.D.’s pre-trip image of Ireland: super-green pastures with livestock in the distance; like this scene with the Drombeg Stone Circle in the foreground, one of the many megalithic monuments in the country (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-15)
The Cliffs of Moher on Ireland’s west coast, one of the many natural beauty wonders of the country (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-14)
Ardmore: Church Cemetery and Tower; another of the many ruined churches surrounded by graves in the country (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-10)
Carrigafoyle Castle, one of the many monumental medieval ruins in the country (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-13)
More green pastures and livestock . . . and another of the many megalithic monuments: Parknabinnia Wedge Tomb (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-14)
The Devil’s Causeway, another of the many natural wonders of [Northern] Ireland; sadly, the Korean Tour group and the gaggle of OU fans would neither help me recreate the “Houses of the Holy” Led Zeppelin album cover, nor get out of the way for my pics . . . (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-18)
On of my favorite pics of Mrs A.D. and me: together on the rocks of life, but taking it one step at a time (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-18)

Ireland is a great place to see things and think about life. So, I left there glad to have visited in troubling times and resolved to be conscious of how I treat people and react to circumstances.

BTW, we did DNA tests for Christmas and it turns out . . . I am more Irish than Mrs A.D., much to her chagrin (and my surprise)!
Perhaps that is why , for the first time ever, I wore green for St. Patrick’s Day today.


*A reference to the excellent book by Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization (New York: Doubleday, 1995).

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Pic of the Day 2017-10-05: Putting Man on a Pedestal?

Lost in the cursed scrub-oaks, jagged rocks, dusty unpaved roads, and small farm plots of Rough Cilicia, one finds (if one is really looking and knows where) Köşkerli—the modern name given to a scatter of ruins around an ancient Byzantine church.

Köşkerli
The church ruins at Köşkerli, with the oddly-placed chapel (with awkward water pipe laid across it) in the foreground (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr).

The main door of the church is nearly blocked by an oddly-placed small chapel that seems out of place or an afterthought. In front of the chapel is a rather large single fallen column. On my first visit to Köşkerli, I didn’t think much of the arrangement. But while researching another issue about the site, I obtained the Turkish language report of the archaeological survey there.1 The author noted that the single column is too large to have come from the church itself and has no matching columns among the ruins. He speculated that it fell from the chapel (or immediately outside it) and was possibly a column for a Stylite, or “pillar-dwelling monk.” As it happens, Stylites were something of a feature of the eastern Asia Minor-Syria regions in the Byzantine period. I think the idea has merit. So, on a subsequent visit last year, and again this week I paid special attention to the column.

Köşkerli
Ancient Dan with the fallen single column at Köşkerli (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr).

It is tempting to make observations on the outcomes of elevating a man above others so his “holiness” can be observed, but I am trying to avoid politics and theology in this forum.

Köşkerli
Small chapel as seen from the door of the church at Köşkerli, with fallen singular column in center background (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr).

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Footnotes

1 Semavi Eyice, “Güney Anadolu’da bir ören yeri Köşkerli-Anadolu,” Araştırmaları 16 (2002): 227-39.