– It’s the Olive garden isn’t it?
– Gethsemane, yes. Jesus’ arrest. Don’t you find the theme particularly appropriate?
Kern prefered not to answer.
– Only the faces are left to finish.
– Of course that’s the most difficult. We always leave the faces till last, proceding layer by layer, from the darkest to the brightest… The true meaning of the Icone only appears when the characters faces are illuminated by the divine truth and their names written above them on the panel in greek or in ancient slav. In short, an enquiery.***
A small group of homeless down and outs take over Notre-Dame just before Christmas, lead by the charismatic Mouss, a north African christian, but who would know from appearances. Amongst his followers is Stavros, a once painter of Icones, decided to finish an Icone begun years earlier as shown in the opening quote. the priest officiating at the time is Father Kern.
Months later the dead body of Mouss is found in the Seine with holes in its hands, feet and side. Claire Kauffmann is the examining magistrate and we quickly return to the events of the previous christmas, the police laying seige, the crowds of both those for and against Mouss and his followers, of the integrist catholics and their relationship with Notre-Dame and its rector, Rieux Le Morlay, of the many groups this sort of event could draw out and polarise.
It takes the combined forces of Claire Kauffmann and Father Kern to get to the bottom of this mystery, who betrayed the group and let in the police? Who was responsible for Mouss’s death? were the two events linked?
First Published in French as “Évangile pour un gueux” by Viviane Hamy in 2016
*** my translation
The quote as read in French before translation
– C’est le jardin des Oliviers, n’est-ce pas?
– Gethsémani, oui. L’arrestation de Jesus. Vous ne trouvez pas le thème particulièrement adapté à notre situation?
Kern préféra ne pas réagir.
– il ne reste plus que les visages à faire
– C’est le plus dificile bien sûr. on termine toujours par les visages, en procédant par couches, du plus sombre au plus clair…. Le véritable sens de l’icône n’apparaît qu’une fois les visages des personages illuminés par la vérité divine et leur nom inscrit sur le panneau, en grec ou en vieux slave. en somme, c’est une enquête.