The Death of the Cathedrals
A Consequence of the Briand Project for Separation

   Assume for a moment that Catholicism were dead for centuries, that all tradition of its rites were forgotten. Only the cathedrals remain, monuments now unintelligible, but retaining their wonder, from a forgotten faith, dumb and alienated from their purpose. Then suppose that one day, scholars, with the help of historical documents, decide to reconstruct the ceremonies once held in them, the very ceremonies for which they were built, that were their true significance and the reason for their existence, and without which they can be nothing but a dead letter; and suppose then that artists, seduced by the dream of giving back a momentary life to these great, stranded vessels, try to make of them, for one brief hour, the theatres of that mysterious drama that was played out in a mist of chants and perfume, undertake, in a word, to do for the Mass and for the cathedrals what the cognoscenti of the South have done for the theatre at Orange and for the Tragedies of the ancient world.
   Is there a government that is in the least concerned about France's artistic past that would not subsidize to a large extent such a magnificent endeavour? Do you think that what it has done for Roman ruins it could not fail to do for France's own monuments, for those cathedrals which are probably the noblest but undeniably the most original expression of the French genius? Because one might prefer the literature of other nations to our own literature, their music to our music, their painting and their sculpture to ours; but it is in France that Gothic architecture has created its first and its most perfect masterpieces. Other countries merely imitated our religious architecture, but without ever equalling it.
   See them then (I am taking up my hypothesis again), these men of learning, busying themselves to discover the vanished significance of our cathedral churches: meaning comes back to carvings and to stained-glass windows, a mysterious perfume hangs like a cloud once more within the temple, a sacred drama is played out, the cathedral takes up its song once again. The government is well advised to grant its subsidy, grants it, indeed with better reason than in the case of Orange, of the Opéra and of the Opéra-Comique, for this resurrection of Catholic ceremonies is of historical, social, plastic, musical interest, whose beauty alone is above anything any other artist has ever dreamed, and which Wagner alone has come near to rivalling, in Parsifal, and only then, because he took them as his models.
   Car-loads of snobs descend upon the Holy City (whether it be Amiens, Chartres, Bourges, Laon, Rheims, Rouen or Paris, any town you care to mention, we have so many sublime cathedrals!), and, once a year, experience that thrill which formerly they sought out at Bayreuth or at Orange, sampling a work of art within the frame that was originally made to contain it. But there sadly, as at Orange, they can never be anything but sight-seers and dilettanti; do what they may, the soul to which once this ritual spoke is theirs no longer. The artists that have come to perform the chants, the actors brought to play the priests, may be well coached, may have absorbed the spirit of their parts; the Minister for Education may spare them neither decorations nor compliments. But, in spite of all that, we cannot help but say: "Alas! how much more beautiful the festivals must have been when real priests said the Office, not with the object of giving to the sophisticated onlookers an idea of what it was all like, but because they believed in the virtue of their rites as truly as did the artists who carved the Last Judgement in the tympanum of the porch, or set the lives of the saints in the stained glass of the apse. What higher, truer note must all have struck when the assembled people made their response to the priest, and bowed when the bell sounded for the Elevation, not with the detachment of actors in a revival, but because they, too, like their priest, like the man who had carved the stone, had faith. But alas! these things are as distant to us as the pious enthusiasm of the Greek people for their theatrical performances and our 'reconstructions' do not give us any idea what they were really like."
   Such would we say if the Catholic religion no longer existed and scholars had succeeded in rediscovering its rites, if artists had attempted to revive them for us. But it still exists authentically and has not, as it were, changed since the great century when the cathedrals were built. There is no need for us to imagine what a thirteenth century cathedral was like, as a living entity in the full exercise of its function, there is no need for us, as with the theatre at Orange, to have recourse to reconstructions, to retrospectives that may be exact but are frozen in ice. We have but to enter, at no matter what hour of the day, when the Office is being celebrated. The miming, the singing are not dependent on actors with no 'conviction'. It is the ministers of Faith who officiate there, not in a conception of aestheticism, but of faith, and therefore more aesthetically. No 'extras' could give a greater sense of reality, of sincerity, to the scene, because it is the members of the congregation who play the extras here, though such a thought never enters their heads. It may be said that, thanks to the continuity of these very rituals in the Catholic Church, and thanks to the unshaken hold of Catholic faith on the hearts of the French people, the cathedrals are not only the loveliest monuments of our art, but are the only ones that still perform the functions for which they were made.
   But the breach of the French government with Rome seems likely, in no short time, to bring up for discussion, and probable adoption, a project of M. Briand's*, the effect of which must be that, at the end of five years, our churches may, and often will, be alienated from their true purpose; not only will no government subsidy be forthcoming for the celebration of the rites, but the very fabrics will be transformed in what ever way may seem fit for those in authority: to serve the purpose of museums, lecture halls or casinos. Oh! Monsieur André Hallays, you go on repeating that all life is taken out of works of art, as soon as they no longer fulfil the aims that presided over their creation, that a utensil that becomes a trinket and a palace that becomes a museum become frozen, can no longer speak to our heart, and in the end just die - I hope that you are going to pause for a moment to denounce the more or less clumsy restorations that every day are threatening the French towns that you have taken under your protection, and that you are going to get up, make your voice heard, harass, if need be, M. Chaumié, bring round, if necessary, M. de Monzie to the cause, rally M. John Labusquière, to reassemble the Commission for historic monuments. Your ingenious zeal has often proved effective, you cannot allow all the churches in France to die in one single blow.
   Today there is not a single socialist with any taste who does not deplore the mutilations that the Revolution inflicted on our cathedrals, so many statues, so many stained-glass windows smashed. Well then, it would be better to devastate a church than to deconsecrate it. As long as the Mass is celebrated in it, however mutilated it may be, at least it still retains some life. The day it is deconsecrated it is dead, and even if it were protected as an historic monument from scandalous appropriations, it is still nothing more than a museum. One might say to the churches what Jesus said to his disciples: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." (John VI, 53), these somewhat mysterious but profound words of the Saviour becoming, in this new sense, an axiom for aesthetics and architecture. When the sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ, the sacrifice of the Mass, shall no longer be celebrated in our churches, the life will have gone out of them. The Catholic Liturgy is one with the architecture and the carvings of our cathedrals, because these things derive from the self-same symbolism: we know that there is scarcely a scrap of sculpture in a cathedral church, no matter how secondary in importance it may seem, which has not its symbolic value. If the statue of Christ on the Western porch of Amiens cathedral is raised up on a pedestal decorated with roses, lilies and vines, it is because Christ said: "I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. I am the true vine."
   If at his feet are carved the adder and the basilisk, the lion and the dragon, it is because of the verse in Psalm XCI: Inculcabis super aspidem et leonem. To his left, in a small bas-relief, is represented a man who lets his sword drop at the sight of a wild animal, while at his side a bird continues to sing. This is the "coward who has not the courage of a thrush", and what this bas-relief means to symbolize, in effect, is cowardice as opposed to courage, because it is placed beneath the statue that is always (at least in the earliest times) to the left of the statue of Christ, the statue of St Peter, the apostle of courage.
   And the same for the thousands of figures that decorate the cathedral.
   So, the religious ceremonies share the same symbolism. In an admirable book that I would one day like to have the opportunity to pay full acknowledgement, M. Emile Mâle analyzes, on the authority of Guillaume Durand's Rational des divins offices, the first part of the Office for Easter Saturday in the following terms:

   "The day begins with the extinction of every lamp in the church to show that the ancient Law, which once gave light to the world, has been abrogated.
   Next, the celebrant blesses the new flames which symbolize the new Dispensation, causing them to leap from the stone walls, as a reminder that, in the words of St Paul, Jesus Christ is the headstone of the corner of the world. Then the Bishop and the Deacon move towards the choir and stop before the pascal candle.
   This candle, as Guillaume Durand tells us, is a triple symbol. Extinguished, it stands for the column of cloud which led the Jews by day, for the ancient Law, and for the body of Jesus Christ. Lit, it symbolises the column of fire which Israel saw in the darkness, the new Law, and the glorified body of Jesus Christ, risen. The Deacon makes allusion to this triple meaning by reciting in front of the candle the formula of the Exultet.
   But he lays especial emphasis upon the resemblance between the candle and the body of Jesus Christ. He recalls that the immaculate wax is the product of the bee, an insect at once chaste and fruitful, like the Blessed Virgin who brought the Saviour into the world. To give visual form to this likeness of the wax to the divine body, he sticks into it five grains of incense, which are reminders of the five wounds of Christ and the perfumes bought by the holy women for the embalming of His body. Finally, he lights the candle from the newly kindled flame, and all the lamps in the church are lit, as a sign that the new Law has been spread throughout the world."

   But this, it will be said, is an exceptional Feast-Day. In answer to that objection, let me give an interpretation of the daily celebration of the Mass. It will be seen that it is no less symbolic.
   The sad and solemn chant of the Introit begins the Office. It tells of the patient waiting of the patriarchs and the prophets. The choral accompaniment of the priests is the choir of the saints of the ancient Dispensation, sighing for the coming of the Messiah whom they shall not see. Then the Bishop enters, imaging the figure of the living Christ. His coming symbolizes the coming of the Saviour, for which the nations have waited. On the occasion of the major feasts seven candles are carried before him, as a reminder that, in the words of the Prophet, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit rest upon the head of the Son of God. He moves forward beneath a triumphal canopy whose four bearers symbolise the four Evangelists. He has with him two acolytes, one on his right, one on his left, who represent Moses and Elias who were shown with Christ at the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. Their presence signifies that Jesus had with Him the authority of the Law and the Prophets.
   The Bishop takes his place upon his throne and sits there silent. He seems to be taking no part in the first stage of the ceremony. His attitude means something. He recalls to us by his silence the fact that the first years in the life of Jesus Christ were passed in obscurity and reflection. The Sub-Deacon, on the other hand, goes to the desk, and, turning to his right hand reads the Epistle in a loud voice. In this we are to see the first act in the drama of the Redemption.
   The reading of the Epistle is the preaching of St John the Baptist in the wilderness. He speaks before the Saviour has begun to make His voice heard, but he speaks only to the Jews. The Sub-Deacon, symbol of the Forerunner, turns towards the North, which is the side of the Ancient Law. When he has finished reading, he bows before the Bishop, as the Forerunner humbled himself at the feet of Jesus Christ.
   The chanting of the Gradual, which follows the reading of the Epistle, still refers to the mission of St John the Baptist, and symbolizes the call to repentance which he addressed to the Jews on the eve of the New Dispensation.
   Then, the celebrant reads the Gospel. This is a solemn moment, for it marks the beginning of the Messiah's active life, when His word is heard for the first time in the world. The reading of the Gospel stands for His preaching.
   The Creed follows the Gospel, as Faith follows the declaration of the Truth. Its twelve articles have reference to the vocation of the Twelve Apostles.
   "The very robes which the priest wears at the Altar", continues Monsieur Mâle, "and the objects which he uses in the celebration are no less symbolic." The Chasuble, which is put on over the other vestments, is Charity, which is superior to all the precepts of the Law, and is itself the supreme Law. The Stole which the priest places round his neck, is the light yoke of the Lord, and because it is written that every Christian shall love this yoke the priest kisses the stole when he puts it on and takes it off. The Bishop's two-pointed Mitre symbolises the knowledge he must have of both the Old and the New Testament. Two ribbons are attached to it, as a reminder that the Scriptures must be interpreted according to the letter and according to the Spirit. The Bell is the voice of the preacher. The frame from which it is suspended is an image of the Cross. The cord, woven of three strands, signifies the triple meaning of the Scriptures, which are to be interpreted in three senses - historical, allegorical and moral. When the priest takes hold of the cord to ring the bell he expresses symbolically the supreme truth that the knowledge of the Scriptures must issue in action.
   Thus everything, down to the least gesture made by the priest, down to the very stole he wears, is part of a symbolic harmony, which helps to make up the profound feeling that fills the whole cathedral and which, as M. Mâle so rightly says, is the very genius of the Middle Ages.
   No comparable spectacle, no such mirror of knowledge, spirit and history has ever been offered to the eyes and to the understanding of men. The same symbolism extends even to the music which fills the vast hollow of the building, for its seven Gregorian tones image the seven theological virtues and the seven ages of the world. It is no exaggeration to say that a performance of Wagner at Bayreuth is a trifling thing compared with High Mass in Chartres cathedral.
   It need scarcely be pointed out that those only who have studied the religious art of the Middle Ages are capable of completely analyzing the beauty of such a spectacle. All the more reason, therefore, that the State should see to it that the continuity is not broken. So the State subsidizes the teaching of the Collège de France, which reaches only a small number of persons, and must seem like a cold dissection when set beside the close-knit symbolism of the Resurrection in the High Mass as celebrated in a cathedral. Compared with such symphonies, the performances given in all our other subsidized theatres are but literary trivia. But let me hasten to add that those who can read the symbolism of the Middle Ages like an open book are not the only people for whom the living cathedral, that is to say the carved and painted building, with its echoing music, provides the greatest of all spectacles. A man may have a feeling for music even if he knows nothing about harmony. I am aware that Ruskin, explaining the spiritual meaning that determines the arrangement of the chapels in the apse of cathedral, says: "You will never be able to feel the charm of architectural forms if you are not in sympathy with the thought from which they have emerged." It is no less true, however, as we all of us know, that a man wholly ignorant of these things, a simple dreamer, may enter a cathedral without trying in any way to understand, content to let his emotions take charge, and get from what he sees and hears an impression, which, although it will doubtless be less clear-cut, may be no less powerful. As literary evidence of this state of mind, which is very different, to be sure, from that of the scholar of whom I have been speaking, which enables a man to walk about a cathedral, as in some "forest of symbols which gaze upon him with familiar eyes", and still, when the Office is being said, feel powerful though vague emotions, let me quote a beautiful passage from Renan which he entitles The Double Prayer.

   "One of the loveliest religious spectacles that one can witness nowadays (and which one will soon be able to witness no longer, should the Chamber pass the Act in question) is to be found at nightfall in the cathedral of Quimper. When darkness fills the aisles of the huge building, the faithful of both sexes assemble in the nave and sing the Evening Prayer in the Breton tongue to a simple and appealing rhythm. The only light comes from two or three lamps. On one side are the men, standing; on the other, the kneeling women, with their white coifs, produce the effect of a motionless sea. The two sections chant, alternately, and the phrase begun by one is completed by the other. What they are singing is very beautiful. When I hear it I feel that, with a very few changes, it might be adapted to any state of mind to be found in the human race. Especially does it set me dreaming of a form of prayer which, with certain variations, might suit equally, both men and women."

Between this state of day-dreaming, which is not without its charm, and the more self-conscious pleasure of the 'connoisseur' in matters of religious art, there are many degrees. Let me, for instance, refresh your memory by quoting what Gustave Flaubert says when describing, though with the intention of interpreting it in a modern sense, one of the most beautiful parts of the Catholic liturgy.

   "The priest dipped his thumb in the sacred oil, and started to anoint her: first upon the eyes ... on the nostrils that had been greedy of warm breezes and the heady scents of love ... on her hands, so avid of soft stuffs ... and, lastly, on her feet which had once moved swiftly when she had hastened to the satisfaction of desire, and now would never move again."

   So it is that before this artistic realization, the most complete ever since all the arts collaborated in it, of the highest dream to which humanity has ever been raised, one may dream in many different ways, and the setting is sufficiently large for us all to find our place in it. The cathedral that shelters so may saints, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, kings, confessors, martyrs that whole generations crowd up to the entrance of the porches, frequently supplicating, in anguish, raising up the edifice all atremble beneath the sky like an extended lament, while angels lean down smilingly from the high galleries which, in the pink and blue incense of evening and the dazzling gold of morning, truly appear like "balconies in the sky", the cathedral, in its vastness, could just as readily give sanctuary to the literati as to the believer, to the vague day-dreamer as to the archaeologist; what matters is that it remains a living entity and that from one day to the next France is not transformed into a parched beach on which great sculpted shells appear as if stranded, empty of the life that inhabited them, and no longer even being held to the ear that would hear in them the vague murmur of times gone by, mere museum pieces, from museums that are themselves frozen in ice. "It is not too late", M. André Hallays wrote a few years ago, "to reinstate an absurd idea, that was born, so it seems, in the minds of some of the inhabitants of Vézelay. They wanted Vézelay church to be deconsecrated. Anticlericalism inspires great follies. To deconsecrate that basilica is to take away from it what little spirit remains to it. The moment the little lamp that shines in the depths of the choir is extinguished, Vézelay is left as nothing more than an archaeological curiosity. In it you will breathe only the sepulchral odour of museums." It is only by continuing to fulfil the office for which they were historically designed that these buildings, be they forced to die slowly at the task, retain their beauty and their vitality. Do we really believe that in the museums of comparative sculpture, the famous mouldings on the wooden stalls carved for Amiens cathedral could give any idea of the stalls themselves, in their venerable and still functioning antiquity? Whereas in a museum a guard stops us getting too close to their mouldings, these priceless stalls, so ancient, so famous, so beautiful, continue to exercise their modest function as stalls at Amiens - which they have fulfilled for several centuries to the great satisfaction of the people of Amiens, - like those artists who have achieved great glory but continue nevertheless to keep up a little employment or give lessons. These functions consist, before even providing instruction to the soul, of providing support for the body, and which, sat upon during every Office and displaying only their backs, they carry out with modesty. And again, the constantly rubbed wood of these stalls has little by little assumed, or rather has allowed to show through, that dark purple that appears to come from its heart and that, to the extent of no longer being able to look at the colours on paintings that seem very clumsy in comparison, immediately enchants the eye. It is like like a sort of intoxication we experience through taste, in the ever more inflamed ardour of the wood that is like the sap, flowing through the tree throughout the years. The naivety of the characters carved in the wood take from the material in which they are brought to life something that is doubly natural. And for all those fruits, flowers, leaves, branches, Amienese vegetation that the Amienese sculptor has carved into the wood from Amiens, the various rubbings and polishings they have felt over the years has brought out wonderful contrasts of tone in which a leaf stands out in a different shade from the stem, bringing to mind those noble tones that M. Gallé knew how to bring out from the harmonious heart of oak trees.
   It is not only to the Canons following the Office from the stalls, that the railings, the misericords and the banisters recall the Old and the New Testaments, it is not only to the people filling the vast nave, that the cathedral, if M. Briand's project was voted through, will find itself closed, will no longer be able to hold Mass or prayers.
   I said just now that nearly all the images in a cathedral church are symbolic. But some are not. Those are the images painted or carved by folk who, having contributed their pence to the decoration of the cathedral, have wished to keep for themselves a place there for all time, so that they may, from some upper niche, from the embrasure of some window, follow silently the sacred Office, and share soundlessly in the prayers, sæcula sæculorum. We know that the oxen of Laon, who, with Christian humility, had dragged to the top of the hill on which the cathedral stands, the materials destined for its building, were rewarded by the architect by having their statues set at the foot of the towers, where you may see them still, lifting their horns in the stagnant heat of the sun and amid the jangle of bells, there, above the vast and sacred arch, dreaming the dreams that speed forth above the plains of France. For the beasts this was as much as could be done; for men a greater favour was reserved.
   Theirs was the privilege to penetrate within the church and take the places that would still belong to them, even after death, whence they could still, as in their lives, follow the divine sacrifice, whether, leaning from their marble sepulchres they lie with heads just turning to where the Epistle or the Gospel lesson is read each day, able to see and feel, as in the church of Brou, the constricting tracery, about their carven names, of emblematic flowers interwoven with the sacred monogram, or sometimes retaining, even in death, as at Dijon, the glowing colours of life, in stained-glass windows set with all the glory of their blazoned robes, purple, and lapis and the purest azure, which hold the sunlight captive, catching its fire and filling its fragile beams with radiance, and then, on a sudden, giving them release, setting them to wander with aimless glory through all the spaces of the nave now radiant with their tints. Astray, and palpably unreal, with naught to occupy them, they still are donors, and because of that have merited the guerdon of a prayer in perpetuity. It is their wish that the Holy Spirit, each time that He descends, should recognize his own. It is not only kings and princes who there display the insignia of their rank, the crown, the Order of the Golden Fleece. Money-changers, too, are openly displayed, checking accounts, merchants selling furs (see in Mâle the reproductions of these two windows), butchers slaughtering, knights in heraldic surcoats, craftsmen carving a pillar's capital. Oh, all of you, from your windows in Chartres, Tours and Bourges, in Sens, Auxerre and Troyes, in Clermont-Ferrand and in Toulouse, coopers, furriers, grocers, pilgrims, ploughmen, armourers, weavers, stone masons, butchers, basket weavers, cobblers, money-changers, oh you vast silent democracy, faithfully and obstinately there within hearing of the Sacred Office, not dematerialized but more beautiful than in the days of your life, in the glory of heaven and the blood-line of the precious window - no longer will you listen to the Mass that was assured to you through the most undeniable sums of your money donated to the building of the church. No longer will the dead govern the living, according to the profound saying. And the forgetful living will have ceased to carry out the wishes of the dead.
   But let us leave the ruby-hued coopers and the pink and silver basket weavers, to inscribe at the base of the window the "mute protestation" that M. Jaurès would know how to deliver with such eloquence, and that we implore him to bring to the ears of the deputies, and leaving aside this innumerable and silent host, ancestors of the electors with whom the Chamber scarcely concerns itself, by way of conclusion, let us sum up.
   Firstly: the very same protection of the most beautiful works of French architecture and sculpture that will die on the day they no longer serve the purposes of worship for which they were created, which is their function as they are its organs, which is their meaning because it is their soul, forces on the government a duty to demand that worship be celebrated in cathedrals in perpetuity instead of the Briand project that authorizes it to turn the cathedrals, after a period of a few years, into whatever museums or conference halls (at best) that they see fit, and even, if the government does not take this initiative, to prohibit the clergy if it deems the location too costly (and due to the fact that it will no longer be subsidized, one could say that it gives it the stronger hand) from any longer celebrating the Offices in them.
   Secondly: the preservation of the greatest artistic unity that could ever be imagined, historic and yet living, the millions needed for reconstruction for which no expense can be deferred if it were no longer to exist, to experience Mass in cathedrals, forces upon the government a duty to subsidize the Catholic Church for the upkeep of a creed that otherwise concerns the conservation of the most noble of French art (to continue to hold solely to this profane point of view), that the conservatories, musical or comedy theatres, enterprises for the reconstitution of ancient tragedies at the theatre at Orange, etc. etc., all organizations with a debatable artistic goal, conserving works of which many are unworthy (what else is there when compared to the choir at Beauvais, or the statues at Rheims, The Days of the Adventuress or M. Poirier's Son-in-law1?), whereas the masterpiece that is the mediaeval cathedral with its thousands of painted or carved figures, its hymns, its Offices, is the most noble of all those to which France's genius has ever aspired.
   And in this article I have only spoken about cathedrals so as to demonstrate the most striking aspect and the most shocking in the mind of the reader, of the consequences of the Briand project. But we know that the distinction between cathedral churches and others is totally artificial, since it is sufficient, on the occasion of a Feast-Day, to set up a cathedra for a bishop, to momentarily transform a church into a cathedral. What I have said about cathedrals applies to all the beautiful churches in France, and as we know there are thousands of them. As we follow a French road between fields of sainfoin and pear orchards that give way at each side so as to make it "so beautiful", at almost every turn you catch sight of a steeple raising itself up against the stormy or clear horizon, intersecting, on rainy days that are also bathed in sunshine, a rainbow that, like a mysterious halo reflected upon the sky next to the same interior of the partly open church, juxtaposes on the sky its rich and distinctive colours of stained glass; at almost every turn you catch sight of a steeple raising itself up above the houses that look down to the ground, like an ideal, soaring out in the voice of its bells, to which, as you come closer, are mingled the cries of birds. And as often as not you can be sure that the church above which it rises up contains beautiful and solemn conceptions, both carved and painted, and other conceptions that not having been called to such a distinct existence and have retained more of their vagueness, in the creation of beautiful lines of architecture, but as powerful, although more obscure, and capable of capturing our imagination in the burst of their flight or imprisoning it completely in the curve of their descent. There, from the charming balusters of a Roman balcony or from the mysterious sill of a half-open Gothic porch that unites with the illuminated darkness of the church the setting sun in the shadow of the great trees that surround it, we must continue to see the procession emerging from the multicoloured shadow that falls from the trees onto the stone of the nave and follow, in the fields, between the squat columns that surmount capitals of flowers and fruits, the roads of which we could say, as the Prophet said to the Saviour: "All her paths are peace". In the end I have only evoked in all this an artistic interest. That does not mean to say that the Briand project does not threaten other interests and that I am indifferent to these other interests. But, after all, it is from this point of view that I have chosen to position myself. It would be wrong of the clergy to reject the support of artists. Because to see how many deputies, when they have finished voting on their anticlerical laws, go off on a tour of English, French or Italian cathedrals, bringing back an antique chasuble for their wife to have made into a cloak or a door-curtain, elaborating in their study projects for laicization in front of a photographic reproduction of an "interment", haggling with a second-hand dealer over a panel from a reredos, travelling far and wide in search of fragments of church stalls to serve as an umbrella-stand for their vestibule and on Good Friday going to the "Schola cantorum", if not even to the church of Saint-Gervais, listening "religiously", as the saying goes, to the Mass of Pope Marcel, we might think that the day we persuade all people of taste of the obligation of the government's to subsidize religious ceremonies, we will have found, united and risen up against the Briand project, a number of deputies, and even anticlericals.

Marcel Proust.

First printed in Le Figaro, 16 August 1904 and reprinted in Chroniques. A shorter and partially rewritten version of this article was printed in Pastiches et Mélanges, and translated in Marcel Proust. A Selection from his Miscellaneous Writings. Where identical passages have occurred I have selectively used Gerard Hopkins' translation.

1. Le Gendre de M. Poirier, play by Émile Augier and Jules Sandeau, 1854. I have been unable to identify Jour de L'Aventurière.

From Wikipedia:
    Aristide Briand (1862 - 1932) French statesman who served eleven terms as Prime Minister of France during the French Third Republic and was a co-laureate of the 1926 Nobel Peace Prize.
    From the beginning of his career in the Chamber of Deputies, Briand was occupied with the question of the separation of church and state. He was appointed reporter of the commission charged with the preparation of the 1905 law on separation, and his masterly report at once marked him out as one of the coming leaders. He succeeded in carrying his project through with but slight modifications, and without dividing the parties upon whose support he relied.



Return to Front Page