Bible Review 21:5, Winter 2005

Genesis and the Cathedrals

Like a French cathedral, Genesis was built over time.

By Ronald S. Hendel

Bible Review

One of the most important characters of Victor Hugo’s great novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is the old Notre Dame Cathedral itself. Hugo calls it “a vast symphony in stone,” composed of many exquisite elements derived from different historical periods, from Roman to Gothic. He compares it to a chimera, the mythic creature made from the parts of various animals: “This central and generative church is a kind of chimera among the old churches of Paris; it has the head of one, the limbs of another, the trunk of a third, something of all.” Yet in spite of its diversity, it is not a monster but a perfect hybrid, in which the combined architectural layers yield “the calm grandeur of the whole.” He concludes: “Great buildings, like great mountains, are the work of centuries.”1

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