Notre-Dame: The Soul of France by Agnès Poirier - review by Andrew Hussey

Andrew Hussey

Naked in the Cathedral

Notre-Dame: The Soul of France


Oneworld 219pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

At 11am on Easter Sunday 1950, Michel Mourre, a disaffected and angry young would-be artist, stepped forward towards the altar at Notre-Dame as High Mass was about to begin. He was disguised as a Dominican friar. His plan was to walk up to the microphone and read a prepared text. As well as the massive congregation in the cathedral, there was an estimated worldwide radio audience of some hundreds of thousands. He approached the rostrum and began reading:

I accuse the Catholic Church of infecting the world with its funereal morality,
Of being the running sore on the decomposed body of the West.
Verily I say unto you: God is dead…

Mourre had barely begun his oration when the great organ of Notre-Dame roared into life. Mourre’s anti-clerical comrades had infiltrated the congregation and at this point rushed towards him, trying to smuggle him out of Notre-Dame. The Swiss Guards, custodians of the cathedral, then exploded into action, drawing their swords, which they meant to use in anger against the blasphemer. The gang was captured by a crowd that had pursued them towards the Seine, fully intent on lynching them. They were rescued by the police, who immediately arrested them, almost certainly saving their

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