Una memoria immemore. La cattedrale di Reims a cento anni dalla Grande Guerra
In: Quaderni dell'Istituto di Storia dell'Architettura: n.s. 2019, 2020
A forgetful memory. The cathedral of Reims a hundred years after the First World War
On the 19th of September 1914, incendiary shells hit the Reims cathedral and triggered a tremendous fire that destroyed the roof and ravaged various parts of the building. The “martyrdom” of the French kings’ coronation cathedral – perceived as a long-lasting national symbol – became a powerful instrument of propaganda against the enemy’s barbarity. During the conflict, the cathedral overshadowed the city and the destruction of other important buildings or entire urban sectors was almost relegated to the background. Nonetheless, the disputes about Notre-Dame brought the fate of Reims and its population under the gaze of the whole world. Opinions and hypotheses of reconstruction of the monument changed during and after the war, when the myth of the “resurrection” replaced that of the “martyrdom”. The analysis of these fluctuations may be useful to highlight how the community reacted to the conflict and to what extent the inflamed debate influenced the reconstruction in the aftermath of WWI. The story of the cathedral of Reims also offers some important insights into the dialectic between opposite narratives and helps us to understand the role of propaganda, the response of the inhabitants to the different visions conveyed by the media and, above all, the changeable value assigned to the material authenticity and its preservation.