Notre-Dame Affair

The Notre-Dame Affair was an action performed by Michel Mourre, Serge Berna, Ghislain Desnoyers de Marbaix, and Jean Rullier, members of the radical wing of the Lettrist movement, on Easter Sunday, 9 April 1950, at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, while the mass was aired live on national TV. Mourre, dressed in the habit of a Dominican monk and backed by his co-conspirators, chose a quiet moment in the Easter High Mass to climb to the rostrum and declaim before the whole congregation a blasphemous anti-sermon on the death of God, penned by Berna.[1][2][3]


The Mourre-Berna Proclamation

Today, Easter day of the Holy Year,
Here, under the emblem of Notre-Dame of Paris,
I accuse the universal Catholic Church of the lethal diversion of our living strength toward an empty heaven,
I accuse the Catholic Church of swindling,
I accuse the Catholic Church of infecting the world with its funereal morality,
Of being the running sore on the decomposed body of the West.
Verily I say unto you: God is dead,
We vomit the agonizing insipidity of your prayers,
For your prayers have been the greasy smoke over the battlefields of our Europe.
Go forth then into the tragic and exalting desert of a world where God is dead,
And till this earth anew with your bare hands,
With your PROUD hands,
With your unpraying hands.
Today Easter day of the Holy Year,
Here under the emblem of Notre-Dame of Paris,
We proclaim the death of the Christ-god, so that Man may live at last.

The aftermath

The action and the events leading up to and following it are described in detail in Michel Mourre's autobiography.[4] The authors of the action, young bohemians tied to Lettrism, an avant-garde movement surrounding Isidore Isou, were all arrested by the police, and thereby saved, in effect, from the furious mob that chased them from the church.[5] The only one held for any length of time was Mourre, himself a former Dominican monk and the instigator of the whole affair. As his fate was being decided, dozens of prominent voices from culture, the church and the state joined a debate in the newspapers on the merits or (more commonly) not, of the provocation.

In particular Combat, an organ of the French Resistance, began with a commentary by its editor Louis Pauwels condemning the action; but a vehement letter in response by André Breton, attacking Pauwels for his "partial account," and defending the actions, escalated the debate;[6][7] to it were devoted eight days of coverage and a running editorial forum amounting to a total of twenty-some articles by such figures as Jean Paulhan, Pierre Emmanuel, Maurice Nadeau, Messieur the Police Commissioner, le curé de Saint-Pierre de Chaillot, Gabriel Marcel, Benjamin Péret, and René Char.

The police and the Church, for their part, unable to let the insult pass unpunished, nevertheless wanted to avoid amplifying it through a public trial. After a few days they brought in a psychiatrist of questionable integrity, who recommended locking Mourre away in an asylum. Participants in the Combat debate, attentive to the case, protested, and upon the intervention of a second psychiatrist, Mourre was released on 21 April.

The scandal resonated into the heart of the Lettrist movement. Consistent with practices of agitation on which Isou had founded his movement in 1945, the Notre-Dame affair nevertheless put Isou's radicality, and that of his supporters, to the test. The action thus advanced a nascent rupture in the movement, between two blocs which could be called, respectively, "artistic" and "actionist," a rupture which two years later would lead to a schism and formation of the Lettrist International. It was after Gil J. Wolman, Jean-Louis Brau, and Guy Debord, the principal agents of this schism, joined the Lettrist movement, siding with the actionist Ultra-Lettrist bloc still distinguished by the Notre-Dame Affair, and who, along with Ivan Chtcheglov and Berna, formed the LI. It was the LI, launched on the occasion of an intervention directed against Charlie Chaplin, that between 1952 and 1957 experimented with new forms of art and action that would lead to the Situationist International.

The contributors to the Combat debate sought to diminish the importance of the Notre-Dame action by pointing out that it was not entirely without precedent, as, on 22 March 1892, young Blanquistes had interrupted mass, shouting "Long live the Republic! Long live the Commune! Down with the Church!"


  1. ^ snarkout: to have done with the judgment of god
  2. ^ miro renzaglia - COSTRUIRE L'UNITA' D'AREA/2
  3. ^ miro renzaglia - SITUAZIONISMO
  4. ^ Michel Mourre, In Spite of Blasphemy, John Lehmann, 1953; translated from the French by A.W. Fielding
  5. ^ Greil Marcus (1989) Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century, preview at Google books, pp.279-86
  6. ^ Boucharenc, Myriam (2005) L'universel reportage, pp.94-6
  7. ^ Breton, André (1950) Lettre a Louis Pauwels" sur le «"scandale" de Notre Dame», in Combat, April 12, 1950, OC III, pp.1024-5


  • Combat. April 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 19, 20 & 21, 1950. Paris.
  • Greil Marcus. Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century, 279ff. London: Faber & Faber, [1989] 2002.
  • Biene Baumeister and Zwi Negator. Situationistische Revolutionstheorie: Eine Aneignung. Vol. II Kleines Organon, 42. Stuttgart: Schmetterling Verlag, 2007.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Notre-Dame de la Garde — Notre Dame de la Garde, seen from the Vieux Port Basic information Affiliation Roman catholic District Archdiocese of M …   Wikipedia

  • Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs, Quebec — Notre Dame des Sept Douleurs   Parish Municipality   Coordinates …   Wikipedia

  • Notre-Dame, une fin d'après-midi — Artist Henri Matisse Year 1902 Type Oil on paper mounted on canvas Dimensions 72.5 cm × 54.5 cm (28½ in × 21½ in) …   Wikipedia

  • Notre-Dame de Paris (musical) — This article is about the French musical. For the Disney produced German musical, see Der Glöckner von Notre Dame. Notre Dame de Paris Music Riccardo Cocciante Lyrics …   Wikipedia

  • Michigan–Notre Dame football rivalry — Michigan – Notre Dame football rivalry Teams Michigan Wolverines …   Wikipedia

  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923 film) — Infobox Film name = The Hunchback of Notre Dame caption = A promotional lobby card for The Hunchback of Notre Dame . director = Wallace Worsley producer = Carl Laemmle Irving Thalberg writer = Victor Hugo Edward T. Lowe Jr. Perley Poore Sheehan… …   Wikipedia

  • Dreyfus affair — The bordereau (memorandum) which sparked the Dreyfus affair …   Wikipedia

  • Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair) — Infobox Single | Name = Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair) Artist = Sheena Easton from Album = Best Kept Secret Released = 1983 Format = 7 , cassette single Recorded = 1983 Genre = Pop Length = 3:44 Label = Writer = Greg Mathieson, Trevor… …   Wikipedia

  • Dershowitz–Finkelstein affair — The Dershowitz–Finkelstein affair was a public controversy involving academics Alan Dershowitz and Norman Finkelstein and their scholarship on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict in 2005. Shortly after the publication of the book The Case for Israel …   Wikipedia

  • Situationist International — The Situationist International (SI) was a small group of international political and artistic agitators with roots in Marxism, Lettrism and the early 20th century European artistic and political avant gardes. Formed in 1957, the SI was active in… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.