Most people were shocked and horrified by what happened to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris this week, but they have no idea of the horrors that the Catholic Church inflicted on the followers of Jesus under the shadow of that massive edifice. Perhaps there is something symbolic involved in the fire that devastated her vaults and spire.
The following excerpt provides a glimpse of martyrdoms that occurred at Notre Dame:
“We select another from this band of pioneers. Pavane, a native of Boulogne and disciple of Lefevre, was a youth of sweetest disposition, but somewhat lacking in constitutional courage. He held a living in the Church, though he was not as yet in priest’s orders. Enlightened by the truth, he began to say to his neighbors that the Virgin could no more save them than he could, and that there was but one Savior, even Jesus Christ. This was enough: he was apprehended and brought to trial. Had he blasphemed Christ only, he would have been forgiven: he had blasphemed Mary, and could have no forgiveness. He must make a public recantation or, hard alternative, go to the stake. Terrified at death in this dreadful form, Pavane consented to purge himself from the crime of having spoken blasphemous words against the Virgin. On Christmas Eve (1524) he was required to walk through the streets bare-headed and barefooted, a rope round his neck and a lighted taper in his hand, till he came to the Church of Notre Dame. Standing before the portals of that edifice, he publicly begged pardon of ‘Our Lady’ for having spoken disparagingly of her. This act of penitence duly performed, he was sent back to his prison.
“Returned to his dungeon, and left to think on what he had done, he found that there were things which it was more terrible to face than death. He was now alone with the Savior whom he had denied. A horror of darkness fell upon his soul. No sweet promise of the Bible could he recall: nothing could he find to lighten the sadness and heaviness that weighed upon him. Rather than drink this bitter cup he would a hundred times go to the stake. He who turned and look on Peter spoke to Pavane, and reproved him for his sin. His tears flowed as freely as Peter’s did. His resolution was taken. His sighings were now at an end: he anew made confession of his faith in Christ. The trial of the ‘relapsed heretic’ was short; he was hurried to the stake. At the foot of the pile he spoke of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper with such force that a doctor said, ‘I wish Pavane had not spoken, even if it had cost the Church a million of gold.’ The fagots were quickly lighted, and Pavane stood with unflinching courage amid the flames till he was burned to ashes. …
“The martyrdom of Pavane was followed, after a short while, by that of the Hermit of Livry, as he was named. Livry was a small burgh on the road to Meaux. This confessor was burned alive before the porch of Notre Dame. Nothing was wanting which his persecutors could think of that might make the spectacle of his death terrible to the on-lookers. The great bell of the temple of Notre Dame was rung with immense violence, in order to draw out the people from all parts of Paris. As the martyr passed along the street, the doctors told the spectators that this was one of the damned who was on his way to the fire of hell. These things moved not the martyr; he walked with firm step and look undaunted to the spot where he was to offer up his life.”
J. A. Wylie, History of Protestantism, book 2, page 142.
The terrible slaughter of Protestants after the affair of the placards also played in the history of Notre Dame Cathedral:
“The day fixed on arrived. Great crowds from the country began to pour into Paris. In the city great preparations had been made for the spectacle. The houses along the line of march were hung with mourning drapery, and alters rose at intervals where the Host might repose as it was being borne along to its final resting-place on the high alter of Notre Dame. A throng of sight-seers filled the streets. Not only was every inch of the pavement occupied by human beings, but every door-step had its little group, every window its cluster of face; even the roofs were black with on-lookers, perched on the beams or hanging on by the chimneys. …
“The long procession rolled in at the gates of Notre Dame. The Host which had been carried thither with so much solemnity, was placed on the high alter; and a solemn mass proceeded in the presence of perhaps a more brilliant assemblage than had ever before been gathered into even the great national temple of France. …
“Having sworn this oath in Notre Dame – the roof under which, nearly three centuries after, the Goddess of Reason sat enthroned – the assembly reformed and set forth to begin the war that very hour. Their zeal for the ‘faith’ was inflamed to the utmost; but they were all the better prepared to witness the dreadful sights that awaited them. A terrible programme had been sketched out; horrors were to mark every step of the way back to the Louvre, but Francis and his courtiers were to gaze with pitiless eye and heart on these horrors.
“The first to be brought forth was Nicholas Valeton. … The priests offered him a pardon provided he would recant. ‘My faith,’ he replied ‘has a confidence in God, which will resist all the powers of hell.’ He was dealt with as we have already described; tied to the beam, he was alternately raised in the air and lowered into the flames, till the cords giving way, there came an end to his agonies.
“Other two martyrs were brought forward, and three times, was this cruel sport enacted, the king and all the members of the procession standing by the while, and feasting their eyes on the torments of the sufferers. The king of France, like the Roman tyrant, wished that his victims should feel themselves die. …
“The spectacles of the day were not yet closed. On the line of march the lieutenant-criminal had prepared other scaffolds, where the cruel apparatus of death stood waiting its prey; and before the procession reached the Louvre, there were more halts, more victims, more expiations; and when Francis I re-entered his palace and reviewed his day’s work, he was well pleased to think that he had made propitiation for the affront offered to God in the Sacrament, and that the cloud of vengeance which had lowered above his throne and his kingdom was rolled away. The priests declared that the triumph of the Church in France was now for ever secured; and if any there were among the spectators whom these cruel deaths had touched with pity, by neither word nor sign dared they avow it. The populace of the capital were overjoyed; they had tasted of blood and were not soon to forego their relish for it, nor to care much in the after-times at show expense they gratified it.”
J. A. Wylie, History of Protestantism, book 2, pages 214-218.
The Notre Dame Cathedral’s burning is symbolic of the punishments that the Catholic Church will face when confronted by the Judge of all the earth for her crimes against humanity and the wickedness she perpetrated against the true followers of Jesus. Perhaps the Parisians ought better to weep for themselves than their Cathedral.
“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” Revelation 18:4.