Like many others, I was deeply grieved to hear the news of the fire earlier this week that ruined much of the beloved cathedral, Notre-Dame de Paris. I am at a loss of words to describe the horror I felt when watching the images of the fire, and to see the magnificent spire come tumbling down. It is encouraging, however, to hear the optimism of the French authorities who say it will be repaired.
I have been fortunate to have visited Notre-Dame de Paris many times and found the history to be completely amazing. Construction on the cathedral began in 1160, and took many more years to complete. It is rich with architectural ingenuity, including the flying buttresses, gargoyles, the statues of saints and kings, rose windows, just to name a few, all of which beautifully showcase its French Gothic architectural style.
My husband and I first visited Notre Dame in the spring of 1998. It was a weekday, so luckily for us, it was not swarming with tourists. During that visit, we climbed the 367 steps to explore the belfry, et, bien sur, we climbed the next set of 147 steps to the top of the south tower, whew! The view from the top is absolutely amazing. Once you start climbing, or descending, there’s no place to stop, and there are people in front of you and behind you, so this climb is not for everyone.
On our first two visits, the exterior of the cathedral was covered with scaffolding, so I was thrilled on our third visit when the scaffolding was finally gone!
On another visit, in April, 2005, we visited Notre Dame the day after the Pope died. There were hundreds of tourists visiting that day, along with a handful of faithful mourners, near the alter listening to the priest as he prayed for the deceased Pope, and his followers.
The statues of the saints and kings on the outside of the building are very interesting, also with their own intriguing history.
This one is of St. Denis, the first Bishop of Paris. Apparently he ended up on the wrong side of the Roman authorities, and was beheaded. Legend has it that after his beheading, he picked up his head and walked north. The area where he finally fell and died is known as St. Denis.
My dear friend, Terri Watson, wrote this beautiful haiku after hearing of the fire:
On this Holy Week
Death springs to eternal life
Out of the ashes
My French friend, Pascal, said this: “Paris burnt, but will be reborn!”
There is always hope for the future.