Notre Dame Then and Now: A Tribute

Updated: Jan 23, 2020

October 2013

October 2019

I'm not a religious person, but Notre Dame calls to me every time I'm in Paris. No matter where I stay, it's always my first stop. Even if I don't go inside, I stand in Place Jean-Paul II, the square in front, and stare at it. I've attended an Easter service there and I'm thankful that I was able to enjoy the crèche scene and the other beautiful Christmas decorations last December (see my post A Long Weekend in the City of Light). I've climbed the steps of the towers more times than I want to remember. I've looked the gargoyles in the eye and marveled at the rooftops of Paris. I introduced my then 7 year-old grandson to it. I've sat in the beautiful little park, Square Jean XXIII at the east end of the church watching children - including my grandson - play, and I've stared in amazement at the beautiful flying buttresses. I've taken more pictures of Notre Dame than any other structure.

I'll always remember exactly where I was when I learned about the fire. I had just come back to my desk from lunch. Within two minutes, I received three text messages from my family. I immediately turned on France 24 and watched in shock and disbelief as the fire spread and the spire collapsed while my heart was breaking. In a strange way, I wanted to be there, closer to it, to begin the mourning process.

l returned to Paris exactly six months after the fire. I made a small donation, so I receive updates from La Fondation du Patrimoine, an organization that supports restoration projects in France. I was nevertheless apprehensive about seeing it again. As usual, it was the first stop I made. I walked around it, as close as the public can get now, several times, and while words aren't adequate, "bittersweet" kept coming to mind. On one hand it's a sad reminder of its former glory. On the other hand, it remains proud and beautiful and a symbol of hope.

October 10, 2019

The scaffolding and cranes are hard to look at, but they represent the future.


And now...


And now...


And now...

The relics, the gargoyles and the stained glass windows were saved. The bees and hives on the roof survived. Amazingly, no one was killed. The cockerel, or rooster, that sat on the spire was found battered, but relatively in tact. In June, just two months after the fire, a service was held, albeit private and small, and the bells rang out again for the first time in September. Small but important steps.

Although criminal intent is not suspected, the exact cause of the fire is still unknown as of this writing and the cathedral is still fragile. Testing on Ile de la Cité has uncovered high levels of lead in some children. After considerable debate, the French Senate decreed that it will be rebuilt exactly as it was. Many believe that President Macron's promise of complete restoration in five years, by the 2024 summer Olympics, is unreasonable and unattainable, but Notre Dame will rise again.

My grandson Ford, April 2011

My hope is to again be able to sit in the Square Jean XXIII on a beautiful spring day watching the next generation of children playing in its shadow.

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