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Notre Dame isn’t the only French church imperiled this year

Dozens of French churches have been attacked and vandalized in the last several months. Even more face possible closure due to neglect and disuse.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

On March 17, a month almost to the day before the great fire devastated Notre Dame Cathedral, another fire broke out in Paris’ second biggest church, Saint Sulpice, two subway stops away from Notre Dame, causing no injuries but resulting in damage that some sources estimate at €1 million. While investigators believe that the Notre Dame fire was caused by an electrical short-circuit, the blaze at Saint Sulpice was set deliberately, and it was not the first; as Catholic News Service reported on March 28, “more than 10 churches have been hit since the beginning of February, with some set on fire while others were severely desecrated or damaged.” But few news outlets, in Europe or the Americas, picked up the story, and the papers that did report it kept it low-key.

In 2018, 875 churches were looted or vandalized in France, according to statistics issued by the French police; the Gatestone Institute, citing a German report, says 1,063 “attacks on Christian churches or symbols” took place in France last year, marking an increase of more than 17 percent over 2017. In February 2019 alone there were reportedly 47 church assaults, including arson, in some cases with statues of Jesus and Mary smashed to pieces, crosses drawn on walls in excrement, tabernacles violated, and consecrated hosts strewn everywhere.

These attacks on French churches are new wounds for an already painful situation in that country, in which dozens of beautiful and historic churches have been pulled down in the last several decades in the name of efficiency, on account of their very low attendance rate. (The demolition of some of these churches can be viewed online. See, for example, this video of Saint Jacques d’Abbeville being demolished.)

In 2013 the French Catholic magazine Famille Chrétienne warned that only about half of the 45,000 parish churches in France were in a good state of repair. The magazine predicted that 10,000 churches would be in ruins in a decade’s time due to water infiltration, crumbling walls, and trees breaking through the roofs.

In addition, a massive number of buildings are not in immediate danger but are slowly decaying and in need of repair, the magazine reported: “Thousands of churches are more or less abandoned and if neglected, will die in the next few years. Not out of euthanasia, but simply due to the indifference that makes us turn the other way.”

In the 1960s, when he was Minister of Culture, writer André Malraux placed France’s Christian heritage at the center of the Ministry’s activities. Today it has been marginalized, placed in an ancillary role to everything else. Some Catholics in France believe this is not for lack of money, but on the basis of a secular ideology.

In July 2017,  the authorities chose to carry out the demolition of the Church of Saint Martin at Sablé-sur-Sarthe. The 19th-century church had been closed for decades due to insufficient upkeep, and apparently posed a danger to the safety of the neighborhood. It was torn down during the week that marked the anniversary of the murder of Father Jacques Hamel, the parish priest whose throat was slit by Islamic terrorists in front of his altar as he said Mass. That the long-delayed demolition of Saint Martin should begin in that very week suggested to some French Catholics a worrying indifference to the sensitivities of the country’s faithful, even the lapsed Catholics or Catholics in name only, whose sense of identity with Christian tradition is on the rise.   

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About Alessandra Nucci 29 Articles
Alessandra Nucci is an Italian author and journalist.


  1. In the face of this the ‘official’ and effectively ‘protestantized’ post-conciliar Catholic Church assumes a pathetic recumbent posture. All faith, all hope gone up in flames but save ND, the building, for ‘the nation’.

  2. I saw a video of an interview with a French technical expert who was in charge of security of all major heritage sites in France, including Notre Dame. This gentleman had to be an real expert to have such a job. He forcefully denied the narrative of a short circuit, saying that in the lat 90s the whole electrical system was renovated and brought up to modern standards. The oak beams of which the roof is made are 800 years old and extremely hard and difficult to burn. It is obvious that what they are saying is false. Besides, how could they have declared only a couple of hours after the fire began that it was an accident when a forensic investigation would take at least several weeks. None of this is credible.

  3. Less than 5% of the Catholics in France regularly attend Sunday Mass. This is a tragic loss of faith and perhaps it is Heaven’s way of using the Cathedral fire as a means for them to see the loss in terms they understand. Who knows but this fire could reignite a fire of faith.

    • Apathy makes the destructions of the religious wars and the French Revolution look like kid stuff. Busily fussing over EU issues and the “yellow vest” nonsense, the French people, as well as most of western Europe are spiritually moribund. Losing the glorious symbol of the Faith is painfully appropriate. —–And only the naive, who have never tried to ignite a simple campfire, think the fire was “an accident.”

  4. when Jesus said “will there be faith when i return? I did not understand it. Now, I am beginning to see why he said it and what it means.

  5. Check the video posted on You Tube on OUTER LIGHT entitled MYSTERY FIGURE ON NOTRE DAME ROOFTOP BEFORE FIRE. He appears to be opening trap doors and lobbing some sort of gernade like devices and you see the flashes. Another video shows a robed figure during the fire running between the bell towers.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Notre Dame isn’t the only French church imperiled this year -
  2. Do They Know the Cause of the Fire at Notre Dame? Only Speculation… | Defenders of the Catholic Faith | Hosted by Stephen K. Ray
  3. The Symbolic Burning of Notre Dame | Human Life International

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