NOTRE DAME’S smouldering embers have now been extinguished, but already the partial destruction of the Parisian icon is prompting great fires of debate.

Which offers up so much to learn from. This week in Glasgow’s Oran Mor theatre, a new play The Mack is being staged. Its central premise asks whether a building, even one so illustrious as the Charles Rennie Mackintosh building, is worth

the risk of even one of the 120 firefighters committed to dousing the flames.

Was Notre Dame and its treasures worthy of the risk to the 400 French firefighters who fought for nine hours to bring the blaze under control? Everyone and their granny has a hotly argued opinion.

What’s also warming up is the debate about how the fire will impact upon President Emmanuel Macron, until now fast developing a reputation as an oleaginous, self-serving opportunist with no real plan to redress the country’s wealth imbalance.

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Now, thanks to the collapse of the spire, he is appearing statesmanlike, delivering sentiment and hyperbole like an aid worker handing out

food parcels to starving weans in Syria.

Macron spoke of the cathedral as if it were a living part of the nation: “That history is ours and I am sad to see it burning,” he said, tearfully. You could almost hear Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo scream out to Esmerelda, “The bells, the bells of political opportunity!”

But it’s not just Macron who sees potential in this particular disaster. Theresa May has announced bells will be rung across England today “in solidarity with France.” Which is dangerous because her detractors will say, ‘Where were you when Grenfell Tower was burning? At least Macron was on site within minutes. You were missing in inaction.’

What the Notre Dame disaster will also produce is a debate us to just how important the 850-year-old building was. We’re being reminded of its glorious history in daily column inches almost as high as the Gothic spire once stood: the church that had seen Napoleon crowned, and sent Crusaders to the Holy Land. Macron talks about its “importance to the world.” But is it the case? Does Notre Dame mean much to Australian sheep shearers, to Bud-drinking rednecks in a bar in Deer Park, Texas? To an Asda cleaner in Govan?

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And what does the fire mean for the future of Catholicism? Vanity Fare magazine claims it’s not good news. “For the Catholic Church worldwide, the conflagration at Notre Dame will undoubtedly have darker intimations. Against the background of its divisions, the proliferating reports of historical clerical sexual abuse and its cover-ups, the catastrophe can only deepen a sense of collapsing morale.”

Online, the Catholic magazine Crux takes a different view. “Notre Dame de Paris is among that handful of special places around the world that symbolise the beauty and depth of the faith at its most compelling.” One headline this week even suggested the story will increase the number of believers, implying the cathedral has a hotline to God. “The Lady of Paris Saved By Divine Intervention,” it ran, although if that were the case, why did God wait 23 three minutes before alerting the Paris fire brigade? Was he building up the sense of drama?

That brings us to the funny side of the fire. Wasn’t it hilarious when President Trump declared the solution to the raging blaze was to drop thousands of gallons of water from above using flying water tankers? Of course, his presiding imbecility didn’t allow for the thought it would bring the entire structure down upon the firefighters below.

What was also humourous was watching England and France play out a tug of war contest (perhaps Brexit fuelled) over how much the cathedral is actually connected to England; eg the English monarch Henry IV was crowned King of France there in 1430. But Scotland will be brought into the Notre Dame debate soon, and not just because Mary Queen of Scots married the Dauphin here in 1538. It won’t be long before Paris is compared to the Glasgow School of Art debacle and we will soon see Olympian efforts in buck passing and blame shifting.

Yet, the story of Notre Dame’s rescue this week has been inspiring. It’s been a tale of unity, of cultures coming together, of human chain rescue efforts to save the likes of the Crown Of Thorns. It’s been a reminder that in a secular society historic symbolism is still hugely important, exemplified by the fact the original structure had been Jewish funded.

And, yes, the repair programme will help repair France, just as the Frauenkirche in Dresden was restored, as a “symbol of redemption and resurrection.”

For those reasons, buildings are vastly important. They’re symbols of endeavour. They’re testimonies to craft, embodiments of capability. But we have to remember falling spires can always be replaced, as indeed Notre Dame’s was, after being broken by Robespierre’s mates. And all that really matters in life are lives.