Notre-Dame: A Short History of the Meaning of Cathedrals by en Follett: A powerful and moving celebration of a very special building - book review -

Notre--Dame
Notre--Dame

Shocked television viewers the world over broke down in tears when they witnessed the devastating fire that tore through the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in April this year.

Shocked television viewers the world over broke down in tears when they witnessed the devastating fire that tore through the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in April this year.

The 800-year-old Gothic building, with its sculptures, magnificent stained glass and striking flying buttresses has survived centuries of France’s turbulent past and is perhaps the country’s most famous landmark.

But a new page in its history was marked when the massive, accidental fire caused the medieval roof and spire to collapse, and severely damaged the upper walls.

No one was more moved by the tragic events than Ken Follett, author of the bestselling Kingsbridge Novels series which began with his classic masterpiece, The Pillars of the Earth, a fictional account of a monk’s mission to build the world’s greatest Gothic cathedral.

Follett’s extensive research for the book provided a deep insight into both the construction and history of cathedrals and two days after the Notre Dame fire, he flew to Paris to appear on the TV programme La Grande Librairie for a discussion about these buildings.

The following morning, he spoke to his French publisher and she asked him to write a short book about Notre Dame ‘and what it means to all of us.’ She also said she would donate the publisher’s profits to the rebuilding fund and Follett agreed to do the same with his royalties.

It was the first step towards the creation of Notre-Dame: A Short History of the Meaning of Cathedrals, an emotional, short piece of non-fiction celebrating the stunning history of this beloved landmark, and designed to aid the crucial restoration work.

The book tells the story of the cathedral, from its construction between 1163 and 1345, through a brief account of French author Victor Hugo’s famous book, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the role the building had played across time and history, and the influences it has had around the world and on the writing of his own novel.

This beautiful hardback edition also contains an exclusive extract from The Evening and the Morning, a much-anticipated prequel to The Pillars of the Earth, which will be publishing in autumn 2020.

A minimum of 50p per copy on each sale of Notre-Dame: A Short History of the Meaning of Cathedrals will go to the charity La Fondationdu Patrimoine, a non-profit organisation collecting donations for the restoration of Notre Dame.

A powerful and moving celebration of a very special building… and a superb way to help restore this monumental achievement of human civilisation to its former splendour.

(Macmillan, hardback, £9.99)