There are extra fashionable Disney songs than “The Bells of Notre Dame,” however the opening tune of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is the most effective factor the corporate has ever placed on a soundtrack. It’s large. It sprawls from one finish of Paris to the opposite, however it lays down a lyrical and sonic anchor in these deep, resonant bells. After Notre Dame’s burning, “The Bells of Notre Dame” resonates with extra energy than ever. It’s the right encapsulation of what the constructing means to a metropolis, a religion and particular person believers.
The track begins by positioning Notre Dame as the middle of Parisian life: “Morning in Paris, the city awakes/To the bells of Notre Dame/The fisherman fishes, the bakerman bakes/To the bells of Notre Dame.” The constructing is articulated first as having a operate in Paris, however Clopin, our narrator, alludes to the constructing’s deeper import with, “some say the soul of the city’s the toll of the bells of Notre Dame.”
The traces evoke one thing organic about Notre Dame’s presence in Paris. It’s the heartbeat of town and the guts itself. It empowers town operate with its lively sign, but in addition its passive solidity. Its absence would get rid of each the image of its sturdiness and the time-keeping operate of its devices. With out Notre Dame, Paris loses one thing foundational.
The empowerment of Notre Dame might be corrupted, nonetheless. Hunchback‘s villain, the seething and self-loathing Claude Frollo, roots his mission to “purge the world of vice and sin” within the bell tower’s triumphant power. “Bells of Notre Dame” builds this bridge by means of a comparability: Frollo’s “clutches were iron as much as the bells of Notre Dame.” This constructing is the soul of Paris, but in addition the gasoline of Frollo’s hatred of sin.
And but, Notre Dame levies a conviction in opposition to Frollo that overpowers his twisted coronary heart. As Frollo makes to drown the toddler Quasimodo (“This is an unholy demon. I am sending it back to hell where it belongs”), the Archdeacon steps out from Notre Dame and stops the decide, cursing him for making an attempt the act within the eyes of the bell tower. One thing pierces Frollo’s coronary heart: “For one time in his life…Frollo felt a twinge of fear in his immortal soul.”
To the gypsy girl sheltering child Quasimodo, the bell tower is a sanctuary. To the Archdeacon, it’s a ethical compass. To Frollo, it’s a decide’s gavel.
Church iconography, particularly in a grandiose context like Notre Dame, humbles us. There’s a craftsmanship to admire in a secular sense, however the evocation of Notre Dame’s booming bells, towering buildings, excessive ceilings, glowing glass and unabashed regality current the Kingdom of God in a literal sense that’s simple to overlook in trendy church tradition. Jesus is a king. He’s promised a Kingdom. It is going to look a thousand occasions extra stunning than Notre Dame, however goodness, even when it was simply twice as stunning, it will be inconceivable to think about. That’s the non secular impression of the cathedral.
And but, Frollo’s delusional coronary heart twists Notre Dame’s energy to service himself. He dumps Quasimodo with the Archdeacon with the order to lift him within the bell tower. The signpost for the Kingdom turns into a jail.
Nonetheless—in a approach that ought to encourage anybody mourning the lack of Notre Dame’s whole majesty—Hunchback has a response. “Bells of Notre Dame” ends with that searing indictment to cap its story of a person and a monster: “Now here is a riddle to guess if you can / Sing the bells of Notre Dame / Who is the monster and who is the man?”
Over the subsequent hour and 20 minutes of Hunchback of Notre Dame, the bell tower affirms its true operate not as a jail, however as a spot of redemption. That is the place souls are rescued, judged and redeemed. It’s the place God’s wrath doesn’t simply destroy, however corrects. It’s the place disgrace of your outer or internal monstrosities are uncovered and it’s the place ugliness might be revealed as magnificence and vice versa.
This week, Notre Dame is its personal metaphor. It’s scarred, however intact. Its look is darkened however its inside is preserved. Efforts to make it entire once more had been debated when it comes to course of, however in a common sense by no means even questioned. For its metropolis, the church and the hearts of believers, Notre Dame is everlasting as a result of its symbology is everlasting. Within the Bible, hearth doesn’t all the time destroy. Typically it refines issues to gold. “Bells of Notre Dame” knew all of it alongside.