Earlier this week, we watched in horror as Notre Dame went up in flames. A cathedral that took centuries to build was engulfed in fire in mere minutes - completely immune to modern day technologies and tactics. In these moments, the cathedral, a champion of ruin and repair, taught us something special about the importance of faith and reverence.
This awful event was gut wrenching to say the least. Regardless of whether or not you are French or Catholic, as the spire toppled and the roof caved in, you felt as though you were watching your own house burn to the ground. You felt powerless.
Known for her rib vault, flying buttresses, colorful rose windows, and the naturalism of her sculptural decoration, Notre Dame is an icon and the most visited landmark in Paris. Built starting in 1160, the French Gothic masterpiece survived the French Revolution, witnessed the coronation of Napoleon I, and even endured WWII and the Nazi occupation. What a life.
As we look back on the history of this hallowed place, it’s important to note that this is not the first time that Notre Dame has taken a beating. She might be damaged, but never destroyed. This is not the first time she’s faced hardship, and it will unlikely be the last. We must have faith that the cathedral will be restored, just as she’s been in the past.
So why does an injured Notre Dame touch us so deeply? This incredible cathedral has significant art, historical and architectural value. She’s steeped in religious and spiritual meaning. She’s a visitor from the past that’s living in the present. She’s a “symphony of stone,” a “sublime and majestic edifice.” (As Victor Hugo so beautifully called her) Notre Dame represents a universal experience and memory across time.
While it may take over a decade to restore Notre Dame back to her former glory, there is certainly a silver-lining. We must be grateful for what did survive: the iconic bell towers, the Rose Window and the Crown of Thorns, to name a few.
The burning of Notre Dame reminded us about the importance of reverence. Now that we’ve witnessed this tragedy, we should look on all pieces of history with a newfound appreciation and respect. Perhaps we will see these historical treasures (cathedrals, paintings, sculptures, even furniture, porcelain and clothing) for what they are: precious, fragile, and sacred. After all, they are conduits to our collective past.
Do you have any poignant memories from Notre Dame? Tell us about your experience at the cathedral in the comments below.
Photos by @mattcrump