Watching History Burn: Notre-Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris caught fire early in the evening, April 15. For many, Notre-Dame is more than a religious structure; it is a source of cultural and architectural history.

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Watching History Burn: Notre-Dame de Paris

Nina Pschar

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Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire early Monday evening, April 15. The flames supposedly began at the base of the renowned spire, spreading upwards and across the ceiling of the ancient building. Various news outlets, politicians, and a crowd of French citizens followed the progression of the fire as the struggle continued into the night. By three a.m in Paris, the fire was reportedly under control. With the story still early in development, the cause of the fire is not known, though officials say investigations are taking place.

Fires supposedly began under the spire (pictured), spreading across the rooftop of the Cathedral.

The tragedy of losing Notre Dame de Paris is acknowledged by heavy hearts across the world. For those in Paris, Notre-Dame was more than a religious structure; the building held much of the city’s cultural and architectural history. Moments after the fire was first spotted, Parisians crowded the streets and watched in horror. Those outside the city tuned in to live broadcasts, following the fire in hopes of its ending quickly.

French President Emmanuel Macron responded to the fire on twitter, writing:

“Notre-Dame de Paris en proie aux flammes. Émotion de toute une nation. Pensée pour tous les catholiques et pour tous les Français. Comme tous nos compatriotes, je suis triste ce soir de voir brûler cette part de nous.” (Notre-Dame is aflame. Great emotion for the whole nation. Our thoughts go out to all Catholics and to the French people. Like all of my fellow citizens, I am sad to see this part of us burn tonight.)

A crowd of Parisians watches the fire from afar.

Into the evening, the crowd of spectators began to pray and sing hymns as they watched the Cathedral in flames. Thoughts and sympathies were given by figures including Barack and Michelle Obama, St. Augustine, and President Trump. Notes of acknowledegment included reflections on the building’s stunning beauty and grandeur.

Much of the building’s exterior, including the spire and the outer frame, were destroyed in the fire. Fortunately, many of the relics were removed from the Cathedral a week prior due to renovations, and remainin safe. For many religious followers, the protection of these artifacts is all too important; for those not Catholic, recognizing the significance of the history the Cathedral offers is just as pressing.

Built in the thirteenth century, Notre-Dame de Paris was an architectural feat, impressive to even the modern eye. The integrity of the Cathedral has been preserved through years of renovations, including and especially after Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The cultural span of this Cathedral is expansive, from its influence on classical architecture to the production of The Hunchback performed at Ewing High last winter. In some way, everyone has taken something from Notre-Dame de Paris. Recognizing the loss of this cultural wonder is a universal struggle.

In an optimistic light, Marcon promised the French people the Cathedral will be rebuilt, in an effort to preserve and advance French (and global) culture.

“Cette cathédrale Notre-Dame, nous la rebâtirons. Tous ensemble. C’est une part de notre destin français. Je m’y engage : dès demain une souscription nationale sera lancée, et bien au-delà de nos frontières.” (This Notre-Dame cathedral, we will rebuild it. All together. It’s part of our French destiny. I commit myself: tomorrow a national subscription will be launched, and well beyond our borders.)

Various news sources have covered live footage of the damage done at Notre-Dame de Paris, and insight continues to be found as the story develops further. While additional information is discovered, the world waits in anticipation for good news.

Late into the night, flames engulfed much of the Cathedral Notre-Dame. Citizens worried the stained glass windows and Northern towers would be damaged, but the fire was soon controlled.