Rev Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James Piccadilly, handy for Fortnum and Mason

We usually ignore the news here on Thought For The Day, but this is different, a historic Church is burning. The Invisible Magic Friend, who obviously can’t do anything about it and had nothing to do with it starting, will be terribly upset, especially during Holy Week.


14 thoughts on “Rev Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James Piccadilly, handy for Fortnum and Mason

  1. I’m in Paris. Saw the smoke and some flames from my hotel 3-4 miles away. Went round the outside on Friday, and only saw an affirmation of the power and wealth of the Catholic church. ” Look how rich we are. Look how powerful we are. Don’t mess with us.”

    Didn’t realise till later that it has an iconic status for the French that transcends its religious origins. The religious aspect isn’t the dominant theme in the commentary on the fire.


  2. @AndyM – Indeed. I suppose Ms Winkett had little choice but to focus on the Paris fire this morning, but she said nothing ‘from a faith perspective,’ except to imply that if only there were more conviction around today instead of just opinions, we wouldn’t just be admiring buildings like Norte Dame that represent the overwhelming dominance of a powerful Catholic Church, but would be building them. I would have preferred to have heard her take on the Extinction Revolution protests, but she was fed a timely get-out there.

    On a tiny point of accuracy – the spire of the cathedral didn’t ‘collapse in on itself,’ as Lucy said, it actually fell over.


  3. Saw several interviews on the BBC News channel expressing similar thoughts to my own: “I’m not religious but it’s a tragedy to see such damage to a beautiful building”.

    Just waiting now for the extremists to come crawling out, saying it’s the IMF’s ‘judgement’ on France for ….. (take your choice of things the religious establishment don’t like). Wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a ‘sign’ that we shouldn’t be mean to RC priests abusing young children.


  4. I posted the above before I listened to Tilby. Was out and about and didn’t want to inflict Tilby on Paris.

    First half OK. Second usual Tilby flatulence. She bemoans the passing of convictions held come what may, in place of opinion. So much wrong with that I don’t know where to start. If any conviction was involved in its construction,it was that of the privileged. The people who put the work in had the curious conviction that they didn’t want to starve.

    I’d see the change to less firmly held opinion as progress. You kill for your convictions. You debate your opinions, and modify them in the face of changing evidence.

    Evidence of what happens when this lot have to construct a “thought” at short notice.


    1. I’d see the change to less firmly held opinion as progress.

      This was exactly my thought, except stronger. What kind of person sees the change from “convictions” to “just opinions” as a bad thing? It’s not like the comparison of opinions and evidence – convictions and evidence are usually only seen together in a courtroom. You set out the hierarchy nicely, I think – evidence at the top, opinions next, and convictions right down at the zero-thought bottom.

      The conviction that allowed these great buildings to be constructed was based on the forced removal of choice. Religious consensus has only ever been achieved by coercion, never by debate and argument. Perhaps she could have explained the choices that went into the construction of Notre Dame, how it was touch-and-go in the planning committee between a Catholic cathedral and a mosque.


  5. My very first thought when I first saw that notre dame was burning was I hope no one gets killed or badly injured. My second thought was that a wonderful building, an architectural icon, conceived and constructed by poor ill nourished people without technical knowledge of structures and strength of materials, without power beyond that of the human hand and donkey is being destroyed.

    But my overwhelming thought at the time, and it prevails this morning, is that notre dame is an edifice to the papal ambition of world rule and domination over the sovereign rights of states and countries. So let it burn to the ground.

    The roman catholic church in my understanding is a global crime syndicate responsible for terrible crimes against humanity … antisemitism, failure to intevene in the Holocaust, genocide, murder, assasination, diversion of wealth from the poor to the vatican … the list of catholic crimes is very long indeed. And so it goes today with all the irrevocable, binding and subjugating concordats, anti semitism, mysogeny, retardation, overpopulation, spread of aids, restrictions in heath care, child trafficking for profit, child rape, the cover up of child rape and the witholding of information to impede investigaton, impeding medical science, money laundering, the teaching of children that they are unworthy and loathsome, insisting that sex is dirty and sinful unless one has an rcc issued license to practice, that homosexuality is a crime worthy of capital punishment. The roman catholic church is an evil organisation. Name the crime and the rcc is guilty of it. Name the crime and someone in the rcc is probably commiting it right now.

    And this morning I wake to mass hysterical hand wringing and wailing and the specious claim that people the world over are in mourning. Well I am not mourning and I am not the only one either. Its just a building. A monument to the evil dogma and ambitions of the rcc.

    The sycophancy is sickening. I heard the wild assertions that the disaster is particularly horrible because its holy week. As if that is a factor in the scheme of things. People were on the streets singing hymns. Get a life. Statesmen and politicans the world over are falling overthemselves in the rush to claim they praying and sending their hearts out lest they upset catholic sensitivities. Such hypocracy.

    Do catholics still have their god or not? Do they still have their faith? The answer is yes of course so stop whining, grow up and get real.

    And just dwell on the enormous problems facing humanity today. Global warming, pollution, the growing nuclear threat, dwindling resources. Those problems are a mattter of human survival and deserve far more attention than the smouldering ashes of a building do they not?

    And Macron has declared a rebuild and is calling for a global effort. That means send us the money. And the poor misguided faithful will send their unaffordable hard earned donations. But they will see not a penny of the eurobillions that will be generated as the tourists flock to see ND2.

    Will the vatican contribute to the rebuild or will it batten down the hatches on the piles of booty it hoards and squirrels away from view.

    Finally I just heard that the Crown of Thorns that adorned the head of the dying jesus was rescued from the flames. That kind of sums up the whole scam of the rcc and the appalling incredulity of its adherents.

    And finally finally the vatican PR machine is twelve hours into cranking up the hysteria all the better to cover up and divert attention away from all the bad news befouling the rcc.

    I am sorry if that upsets a lot of people but it had to be said.


  6. Well full marks Lucy for actually focusing on a current news item for once. Zero marks for the religious content, because there was none. If there is a ‘God’ how could ‘he’ allow this to happen? Come on Lucy, surely there must be some trite, threadbare thought about this you could have rummaged around in your box of handy clichés and brought out for the occasion.

    And later the senior English Catholic representative was interviewed and THANKED THE FIREMEN for saving the main fabric of the building. He didn’t thank God and, to the best of my recollection didn’t even mention his IMF at all.

    Ten or twenty years ago these people would have been dribbling out their tired guff about their Invisible Magic Friend moving in mysterious ways, and thanking ‘Him’ for saving the little bit that was saved. But now they seem to have given up entirely. Waste of breath, waste of valuable licence-fee payers’ air time.

    [And let us spare a thought for the Glasgow School of Art, Mackintosh’s masterpiece which not long ago was destroyed in a similarly devastating fire with, very probably, a similar cause]


  7. Could this have been arson by the RCC?
    The MMO stacks up.

    Means … No problem. Set up a renovation prrogramme with lots of scaffold, machinery, tradesmen, get an insider to set off the fire and blame the workforce. The fire spread with tremendous rapidity didnt it. Beforehand, pull out as many relics and artifacts as can be done without raising suspicion. Maybe many of the priceless artworks were fakes with the originals stored away elsewhere.

    Motive … Paying for upkeep is expensive so what better than to torch it and get it rebuilt using money raised from a global campaign and the French State. You get a mostly new cathederal built to last for the next 850 years with all new services and systems. And crowds with descend upon ND2 in their millions thereby raising huge revenues for the pope to trouser. And the event is a PR mans dream for currying up sympathy and support as well as fabulous cover under which to bury bad news and divert attention from catholic wrongdoings.

    Opportunity … Ample opportunity for some cleric or sycophant to set fire to a prepared cache of flammable building materials just as the last workman exits the site. And no one was killed suggesting that the whole site had be cleared just before the fire was started.

    The RCC has done worse things.


  8. The main stone fabric and the truly remarkable 13th-century windows seem to have survived. The latest reports say that the equally wonderful organ has also survived. The wooden roof and spire, which burnt so dramatically, were largely 19th century. The valuables, including the spurious Crown of Thorns, were kept in the Treasury, which I think is separate from the main structure.

    What these artefacts have in common is that they were all made by people. They are wonderful examples of the creativity and skill of human beings, and their understanding of practical physics and the properties of materials. That is what most people these days celebrate when they visit such buildings, and mourn when they are lost.

    And Notre Dame in itself is not the greatest building in the world. It has been falling to bits for years; its interior was gloomy, and it has been spoiled, like so many churches, by inappropriate and obtrusive modern alterations. If you’re into cathedrals, Chartres or Rouen, or come to that Wells or Salisbury, are much better.

    I have ignored Lucy Winkett’s piece because it was so eminently ignorable. AndyM and Steve have said all that needs to be said about her insistence on conviction rather than opinion: there is far too much conviction around at the moment. Even though Notre Dame is a building of and for religion, and TftD is a religious slot, what Lucy had to say came across as almost irrelevant.

    [And I agree with Graham’s last point about the Glasgow School of Art].


  9. @Jim. Doesn’t rule iut your hypothesis entirely, but the buildinv is owned by the state. What any leasing arrangements were, I don’t know.


  10. Pedantry here, but the pointy thing on the roof of ND, destroyed in the fire, is properly referred to in as a flèche, not a spire as all the news outlets seem to be stating. In English usage, a spire is a stone or timber structure on top of a tower whereas a flèche rises straight from the main roof of the building (normally at the apex). I appreciate that in French usage the distinction is less clear, but English news outlets should get it right according to English usage.

    Anyway, I do think that too much of a perfomance is being made of this fire. Yes, from an architecural and historical point of view it’s a pity, but it’s repairable and fires like this have hardly been uncommon through the centuries – e.g. York Minster has at various times lost all its medieval roofs to fires apart from that on the Chapter House.

    And the RC church or its insurers should be paying for the repairs. If they put out the begging bowl to Catholics who in many cases will not be able to afford to contribute but probably will do so anyway then that will be a disgrace. The RC church is hardly short of money, after all.


  11. @AndyM

    I saw your post just after I’d written my previous comment! I think I did know that but had forgotten. In France, isn’t it something along the lines of the cathedrals being owned by the state and the ordinary churches by the local councils?


    1. @Cynic and AndyM: my understanding is that all religious buildings – not just churches, but priests’ houses etc as well – were taken into state ownership in about 1907. The responsibility for maintaining them has largely devolved to local authorities – which helps to explain the poor condition of many French parish churches today, since French local authorities are just as cash-strapped as ours are. The central Government has some responsibility for important national buildings such as ND, but has consistently under-funded them: media reports today suggest that ND asked for 120m Euros for the latest restoration but the Government allocated only 40m.

      Say what you like about the CofE battening on the taxpayer, but at least we do have a system for looking after some of our historically significant buildings that more or less works, even if rather too many of them still fall between the cracks.


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