After just a weekend in France, I always find myself reflecting on what they do differently there. I am definitively Francophile and love to visit. Partly its a food thing, partly a culture thing. I must be one of the few genuine lovers of France who also feels very warmly about America.
However, I am always struck by how badly maintained many French churches are. In England, even the humblest parish church is kept in very good nick, especially in smaller towns and villages. The material legacy that the Church of England inherited in the sixteenth century has, after the initial iconoclasm, been carefully looked after. In contrast, many French churches appear moth eaten, badly lit and in need of a good clean. I suppose this is largely to do with money. Despite all the moaning, the Church of England has plenty of it. The French Catholic Church probably doesn't. I expect this is something to do with the appropriations that took place in the revolutionary era. Some large Parisian churches, like the Dome and Pantheon are secular rather than religious building even today (both are really glorified mausoleums to the deserving and not deserving).
Conversely, the great Cathedral of Notre Dame has been given a serious face lift. The west front is spanking new. This is not just a clean-up but a full scale restoration that has caused some controversy. Commentators such as Brian Sewell think that the patina of grime lent the building a dignity that its newly scrubbed incarnation lacks. Here are pictures of the old grimy version and the new clean look. Personally, I'm all for the restoration.
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