On Monday, April 15, flames engulfed and extensively damaged one of the worlds – and certainly Paris’s most prestigious landmarks, the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral. This medieval Cathedral, built and consecrated to the virgin Mary in the 12th Century was described by various news sources as;
“Notre Dame was more than simply an iconic cathedral and jewel of Gothic architecture; it was a treasure trove housing priceless and irreplaceable marvels of immense religious, artistic, musical, historical and architectural value.”
Much has changed in the 800+ years since it was constructed. Is it an icon of art and some religious depictions – or a hangover from an age that was virulently anti-Semitic, that needs not only a new roof but some serious reevaluation in its renovations?
Society and governments of 12th and 13th Century Europe were heavily influenced by the Catholic Church and Popes. The Lateran Council of 1215 convened by Pope Innocent III, decreed that Jews were banned from all professions in Europe – except for being pawn brokers or selling old, used clothes. As an ominous precursor to the yellow stars of the Third Reich of 1940’s Germany, Jews were forced to wear clothes that clearly distinguished them from Christians.
Some twenty five years later in 1239, Pope Gregory IX brought numerous charges against the Talmud which was published to influence church leaders including the Kings of England, Portugal and Spain. His missive inspired a massive uprising against Jews. On Shabbat, March 3, 1240, Synagogues across France were invaded. Jews stood by helplessly as Church officials confiscated and burned all copies of their holy Talmud. Against this backdrop of rampant anti-Semitism and persecution of Jews in medieval Europe the Notre Dame Cathedral was built.
With a population that was largely illiterate, the church often enshrined their prevailing ideology with graphic larger-than-life statues. Little would be left to the imagination in the Notre Dame as to how triumphant the Church was over the Jews and Judaism.
Welcoming everyone that entered are two predominate statues. Ecclesia on the left was depicted as finely dressed, a chalice in one hand, the other a staff crowned with a cross. To the right was the downcast and disheveled Sinagoga. Head bowed in defeat, her fallen crown replaced by the open mouth of a venomous serpent which also blinded her eyes; a broken staff in one hand, the tablets of commandments slipping from the other. She was the graphic image of a Judaism that had been humiliated, defeated and replaced by the victorious Catholic Church.
Thankfully society has entered an era of an ever increasing maturity by being willing to acknowledge, confront and take responsibility for sins of the past. Lenin and Stalin have been relegated to the dust bin of history; gone are the statues of Saddam Hussein; even a statue of Canada’s 1st Prime Minister was removed from the steps of Government buildings in Victoria, BC for his actions and policies against the indigenous First Nations. Many other monuments and memorials worldwide have also been removed, like that of disgraced British pedophile, Jimmy Savile and Bill Cosby from Disney World.
It’s time for France and the Catholic Church to step up to the plate – and follow suit. Notre Dame not only needs a new roof, but a makeover repenting for its anti-Semitism by removing and replacing the atrocious depiction of God’s covenanted people. Another grotesque medieval carving can also be seen on the Church of Wittenberg in Germany, the Judensau (Jew’s sow) created in 1305.
A movement of Christians worldwide are distinguishing themselves from the version of Christianity that embodies such detestable imagery as that of Sinagoga or Judensau. God has proven abundantly that He has not forgotten or broken His covenants with Israel.
In this season celebrating Redemption, it is time for Christians to let go of the religious competition of the past. A restored and Sovereign Israel is what the Bible promises. This is what Christians are to embrace and support as partners in redemption. It is in this faith and confidence that Return O’ Israel reaches out with love and respect to God’s chosen people.
Return O’ Israel also calls for French President Emmanuel Macron and the Custodians of the Notre Dame Cathedral to undertake even further renovations. Respect the Jewish people, their God-given promises and remove the exploitive statue of Sinagoga.