An Homage to Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris

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An Homage to Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris
With deep grief and disbelief, we watched the fire that devastated Notre-Dame cathedral on Monday night. Thankfully Paris’s brave firefighters were able to extinguish the flames and save the structure from complete destruction. We are heartbroken. But we have faith that Notre-Dame will be rebuilt, just as President Emmanuel Macron has vowed. International fundraising campaigns have already been announced. Here some of our contributors share their thoughts and memories about this majestic monument. Please feel free to share your own photos and souvenirs via the comments section below or by emailing [email protected] “I went to bed thinking about unfathomable, unspeakable loss, dreading what news the morning would bring. It now appears that though much has been lost, much remains: and so, now to the task of rebuilding. The words of the poet Yeats come to mind: “All things fall and are built again/And those that build them again are gay.” — Janet Hulstrand “Notre-Dame has always been the heart of Paris for me. I write about French cinema, and of course it’s in films, as well as works of literature, that many first experienced the cathedral. The heart is smoldering but the building still stands and I hope it heals with the help of all of us who love the city.” — Dimitri Keramitas “As someone who was raised Catholic, Notre-Dame, for me, was not only the ultimate church but also a symbol of Heaven on Earth. Its beauty stunned me from the time I first saw a photo of it in a French textbook, and it took my breath away when, years later, I was lucky enough to stand in front of the Notre-Dame facade, and marvel at its incomparable beauty.” — Anne McCarthy “An entire forest was cut down 800 years ago to build the roof of Notre-Dame. Down inside the walls of our lady, that forest has fallen and is burning, and all of our tears can’t put out the fire. Out of solidarity, church bells are ringing here in the 20th district. This is one of the most heartbreaking moments I’ve known in my 20-some years living in Paris.” — Allison Zinder “A few years ago I had the precious opportunity to spend a few days in an apartment on the Seine. The building dated from the 16th century and had enormous wood beams with gigantic nails piercing through. But the most treasured part was the view. I snapped this picture (below) at one of the front windows. This is what the owners see every day as they move about their space. Notre Dame Cathedral is more than a place of worship. It is the marker of a civilization. The pain of seeing this monument burning also symbolizes a civilization in flames. Notre Dame has a deep and powerful affect on people. That is why the agony of seeing her burn is so universal. Culture and the monuments they leave behind provide us with more than awesome beauty; they give us a sense of solidity, of place and time; of where we have been, who we are, and where we may be going. This is a stark reminder for everyone in all countries not to neglect their cultural treasures, their markers.” –Dorothy Garabedian “Notre Dame Cathedral represents the beating heart of Paris. A spiritual refuge seeped in centuries-old history, where everyone is welcome and accepted. Whenever I pass by on my way to the left bank, I stop and stare in admiration, or enter for a moment of overwhelming peace. My favorite moments of all are spent on the river’s edge of Île Saint Louis, gazing up at this majestic beauty, Our Lady of Paris.” — Kasia Dietz “Notre-Dame is my Paris touchstone, a ritual. I arrive, put down my bags in the hotel, freshen up a bit and head to the Cathedral right away. All my hotels have to be within walking distance. It’s the center of my stay since 1972, my first trip to Paris. Like an old friend, she greets me and says ‘Bonjour, Beth. Welcome back.‘ ” — Beth Gersh-Nesic “It’s difficult to write with a devastated heart, but I want to say how my feelings for Notre-Dame have changed over the years from a sense of awe at my first meeting half a lifetime ago, overwhelmed by her age and grandeur, to a feeling of warm intimacy. She has always been there, like a magnificent elderly relative, who, you realize has suffered much, but still stands calmly amid the changes all around her. Her large Gothic heart and her fine strong bones have remained. Now that she has been so badly injured, I can only hope she will be lovingly looked after.” — Patti Miller “Sometimes, when you walk by a place often, it can become just a blur of background scenery. Not so with Notre-Dame. I pass it every day on my way home to the Ile St Louis. It has never—ever— been just part of the scenery. I always pause—to look again. Inspired by its grandeur. The articulated carving. The ingenuity of flying buttresses. Its reflections on the nighttime Seine. The rose windows, beautiful from inside and out. The wild and weird gargoyles. The sound of its bells. Its place in history. It is the heart of Paris.” — Meredith Mullins “I never stop making photos of Notre Dame. I took this photo just two days ago because the light was so beautiful and…

Lead photo credit : Notre-Dame cathedral. Photo credit: Paris Info tourist office/ cmjn

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  • Michael James
    2019-04-17 23:43:13
    Michael James
    Like Meredith Mullins, for many years I lived on Ile St Louis and would walk past Notre Dame several times a week, as it was en route to most of the rest of Paris. The walking route was across the pedestrian Pont St Louis where one got the best view of the church, across the gardens of its Square Jean XXIII to its flying buttresses and the spire (a relative young addition in the 1830 renovation). The view from the Parvis at the front is not bad either! In fact I always recommend to visitors that at Charles de Gaulle airport they must take the RER-B train and alight at station St-Michel-Notre-Dame; either exit to the street is fine but I think the one at the Petite Pont is especially impressive, even more so at nighttime, with its perspective across the Seine and the two towers dominating the skyline. Doesn't get much more evocative or Parisian! It is simply your perfect entrance to Paris. Being atheist I don't revere it for any contemporary religious significance while acknowledging its role in the history of France. Indeed, I am reassured that, unlike most other such edifices in other countries, it remains the property, not of the Church of Rome (or its local branches), but of all the people of France under the guardianship of the government (legally since 1905). And in the spirit of Jefferson (who borrowed the notion from Henri de Bornier) the rest of us too: “Every man should have two countries: his own and France. The Catholic Church is a mere tenant of the building. To me, this actually gives it added historical resonance and validity as a symbol of Paris and France, and progress. Just to think of its history across the past two centuries (even without the prior 600+ years) is enough to leave one breathless: the revolution, the 1830s renovation (provoked by Hugo), the further endangerment during the 1871 Commune and two world wars. Indeed I believe this republicanism and anti-clericism lies at the reason why successive governments, including Macron's, has resisted applying an entry fee on those 12 million visitors each year, tempting as it must be. More than any other church, probably in the world not exempting St Peters, it somehow belongs to everyone. Paradoxically though, the proposed entry fee might have forestalled this near-cataclysmic event because the overwhelming reason for the delays in its renovation (a constant topic even when I first visited Paris almost 40 years ago) and the recent rather half-hearted attempts (all that scaffolding around the spire) that seem likely to have been the cause of the fire which originated in the spire. But never mind, it has clearly survived and with less damage than feared--though the history of Gothic cathedrals shows many similar accidents and recoveries, and it seems their very design tends to save the structural fabric from severe damage when their roof collapses (eg. Rheims also restored by Viollet-le-Duc who last renovated ND de Paris; York Minster is another). The heavy stone walls with their flying buttresses and stone vaulting act as a very strong exoskeleton, and as some experts have pointed out, being very early Gothic means more massive stonework than late Gothic, so making Notre Dame one of the most robust of its type. I believe there was unnecessary hand-wringing by assorted experts and commentators in the immediate aftermath. This risked the restoration project getting bogged down in endless and over-cautious delay amid expertitis and managerialism, with wild talk of billions of dollars and decades of work. I am reminded of the Louvre "renovation" that began with Mitterand's decision in 1983, followed by a world competition won by I.M. Pei and its deep excavation works (uncovering at least one thousand years of history and all the archeological investigation and potential for delay; there was a public walkway to look down into the vast site which I did many times), yet it opened to the public in late 1989. So a mere 6 years in what was a much bigger and arguably more complex project than putting a new roof on Notre Dame. So yes, clearly it can be done. Other than the seeming structural integrity of the stone core of the building, the reconstruction of the roof should be greatly aided by Andrew Tallon’s digital map. Alas, Tallon died young last year from cancer but his exhaustive laser mapping of interiors and exteriors should mean no great delay or equivocation on what to rebuild. His work was the subject of a tv documentary that I saw a few years ago, and apparently there is a version on YouTube. I believe President Macron's announcement to restore it on a five year timetable was the correct decision, and with goodwill should rescue it from the curse of so many similar ill-fated projects that seem to drag on forever and cost a fortune. The deadline happens to coincide roughly with the Paris Olympics in 2024 so it is logical and fortuitous. If it slips a bit, well no biggie, but vastly better to have a deadline to work towards than be open-ended and uncertain. Perhaps it needed the authority of the president to bring everyone onto the same page: let's get this restored without unnecessary delay or angst.