On a recent day-tour of Paris proper, I learned the story of Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, the young French architect who redesigned and rebuilt the famous spire of the Notre Dame Cathedral (yes, the stunning spire recently destroyed by a horrific fire).
Following the French Revolution, many of Paris’s ornate churches were torn to the ground, a sign of the vehement distaste for a Church that had indelibly intertwined itself with the hated monarchy of the day. With the help of Victor Hugo and his timeless classic, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Paris authorities were ultimately able to save the famed Notre Dame Cathedral from this same fate.
By the mid-1800s, remodeling plans were underway which included replacing the old dilapidated spire with a new one. Viollet-le-Duc, a 30-year-old architect known for his big talent and even bigger ego, was hired to do the job. He professed no faith of his own, but Notre Dame embodied the spirit of Paris and required the brilliance of a French master. With the help of Victor Hugo, he won over the selection committee.
As a final touch to this glorious redesign, sixteen statues were commissioned to adorn the base of the new spire (thankfully, these statues had been removed for restoration just weeks before the fire). Each 500-pound sculpture depicts the 12 disciples and four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) looking outward from the spire over the city of Paris.
Just one statue, the disciple Thomas, faces toward the spire, arms held high as if to shield his eyes from its beauty. This statue of St. Thomas, the patron saint of architects, was sculpted in the likeness of Viollet-le-Duc, and shows the brash, young architect forever gazing at the beauty of his own creation.
There is a really important lesson in here for you and me:
The work of my hands can glorify God or it can glorify me. I can point at my creation, or my creation can to point to my Creator.
The work of my hands can glorify God or it can glorify me. I can point at my creation, or my creation can point to my Creator. The very same work can blossom from two very different motives. The truth usually shows itself by which way I’m facing.
Every day when your alarm clock goes off, you have a brand new opportunity to go fulfill the Great Commandment. All work, both great and small, can be worship to God and love our neighbor. It’s a sacred thing! Because of Jesus’ finished work, we no longer have to work to form our own identity or make a name for ourselves. Our work can face upward and outward, just the way it was intended
Are you building your “cathedral” to the glory of you? There’s a purpose so much greater. Which way are you facing?