Notre Dame Cathedral: France, Forever Strong
The World Watched And Prayed
Notre Dame Will Rise
“Paris, viewed from the towers of Notre Dame in the cool dawn of a summer morning, is a delectable and a magnificent sight; and the Paris of that period must have been eminently so.”
― Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
One of the most iconic monuments to French architecture, Notre Dame Cathedral, was engulfed in a devastating fire in the evening hours of April 15, and the world reeled with the shock. The fire apparently broke out about right around the time it typically would close to tourists, and according to New York Times, it broke out in the network of wooden beams nicknamed "the Forest." Dating back to the Middle Ages, the beams have been a hallmark of Notre Dame's architecture for centuries.
I never had an opportunity, really, to go visit the famed and beloved cathedral. Sure, I lived in Europe for four years as a teenager, but where my sister had a weeklong trip to Paris, and I believe toured Notre Dame, my high school offered trips to Austria, Hungary, and Switzerland for kids in my grade. Between that, and my parents' own work schedules, we just never had the opportunity to go to Notre Dame. I never had a great desire to go to Paris or see the Eiffel Tower, but Notre Dame has a way of capturing the imagination in ways that few other buildings can.
So, when we all learned that Notre Dame Cathedral was burning, I initially thought I was reading the news feed on Twitter wrong, and then my heart sank. Paris has already been through so much between the Charlie Hebdo attack and the attack on the Bataclan in the last several years; it left me shaken to learn that Parisians, and French individuals throughout the world, could potentially also have to cope with something that has been so beloved to their culture for generations.
The fire, reportedly believed thus far to be an accident stemming from the renovations that recently got underway at Notre Dame Cathedral, caused the building's spire and 2/3 of its roof to collapse, and fears were high that the rest of the building would soon be devastated. Then, what appeared to be a miracle happened; the two bell towers were saved.
Much of the artwork and the holy artifacts, including the Crown of Thorns, were also saved.
Given the age of Notre Dame Cathedral - the building dates back to the mid-1100s - the fact that the building, for the most part, appears to be relatively intact in spite of the original fears that the entire building could be devastated is nothing short of a miracle. To be sure, there will be incredible work that needs to happen in order to ensure that the building is restored to its former glory, but donations are already starting to come in to help that dream come to fruition.
I'm not a religious sort of individual, to be sure. However, I do appreciate what Notre Dame Cathedral has meant to the French people and culture. It's more than just a beautiful building brought to life in various forms through Victor Hugo's classic, Hunchback of Notre Dame. It's a building that has a soul, and as the world watched it burn, our own souls were devastated as we tried to come to terms with the very real possibility that there could be a world without Notre Dame in it, and it was unthinkable.
Now that news has broken that a good lot of the cathedral and its incredible artifacts are saved, the world can breathe again and make plans for the rebuild of Notre Dame. France has the strength to ensure its Lady rises from the ashes to its proper glory, and the world should be there supporting the country to help make that happen. Notre Dame has come to mean so many things for so many people; it's only right that we help this beautiful building with a soul of its own regain its full beauty after such devastation.
I don't know if I'll ever have the opportunity to go to France again, though I'd like to. Now that my kids are at an age where they could appreciate things like art and architecture, a trip to Notre Dame Cathedral once its restored could be in the cards.