SOME years ago the author of this book was going round
Notre-Dame, or, more exactly, prying about, when he found
in an obscure recess in one of the towers this word carved
by hand on the wall: 'ANÁГKH.⋆
These Greek capitals, black with age and quite deeply
incised into the stone, certain characteristics of Gothic cal-
ligraphy somehow stamped on their form and attitude, as
if to reveal that it was a medieval hand that had written
them, above all the dismal sense of inevitability conveyed
by them, made a deep impression on the author.
He wondered, he tried to guess, who might have been the
soul in anguish unwilling to leave this world before brand-
ing the mark of crime or misfortune on the old church's
Since then the wall has been distempered or scraped (I
forget now which) and the inscription has disappeared.
That is how the wonderful churches of the Middle Ages
have been treated for nearly two hundred years now. Mu-
tilations have come upon them from every side, from within
and without. The priest distempers them, the architect
scrapes them, then the people arrive and pull them down.
So, apart from the fragile memory which the author of
this book devotes to it here, nothing today remains of the
mysterious word carved on the gloomy tower of Notre-
Dame, nothing of the unknown destiny which it summed
up with such melancholy. The man who wrote that word
on the wall has been erased, several centuries ago, from the
midst of the generations, the word in its turn has been
erased from the wall of the church, the church itself may
soon perhaps be erased from the earth.
This book was written about that word.____________________