Nous sommes tristes- Notre-Dame Cathedral

PARIS – We join the world in shared sadness! Yet, we are grateful for the times when we visited the Cathedral, during our visits to Paris.

On April 15, the horrified people of the world watched on television, while heroic Parisian firefighters worked to save the magnificent Cathedral of Notre-Dame,, because the fire inside was quickly consuming the structure. Parisians gathered in the streets to mourn about the fire’s damage. Thankfully, some of the beautiful structure and what was inside, were saved.

Cathedral of Note Dame distance view April 1998

A photograph taken of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, using an old fashioned film camera, in April 1998, during one of our visits to Paris, France. (L’Heureux photograph)

Within a few hours of the fire ravaging one of Western Civilization’s most beautiful cultural and religious monuments, we received a phone call, at our home, from our friend Alison, who was in France watching the devastation, with the people in the streets. She called to say she was okay, but wanted to tell us about how the people in Paris were responding to the massive destruction of their beloved Cathedral of Notre-Dame. “Parisians are flooding the streets, watching while they are singing religious hymns to Mary and praying,” she said. We appreciated receiving the call. Her experience was a real time reflection about the scene we had been watching on international news, during the fire.

April 1998 Paris France Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre-Dame Cathedral architecture and buttresses. (L’Heureux photograph taken in April 1998.)

My husband and I visited the beautiful Cathedral twice, each time we were in Paris.  Thankfully, I was able to take photographs. Although my pictures were taken with an old fashioned film camera, they are now more treasured than they have ever been. They are personal treasures. As a result of the Cathedral’s roof that collapsed and the loss of the spire, they are images of the past. Now, my photographs are documents of what had stood the test of time and turbulence, for 800 over years.

Notre-Dame Cathedral has experienced Christian history, ravages of war and still survived. Western civilization’s history is tied to Notre Dame Cathedral, the place where coronations, weddings and funerals of world leaders were celebrated and mourned, in the sanctuary. Mary, Queen of Scots married the Dauphin Francis, Francis II of France there; the coronation of Napoleon and Josephine was held there; the funeral of Charles de Gaulle was held there. In fact, Notre-Dame survived the French Revolution, World War I and World War II.

Vigil lights in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris France

Inside the Cathedral of Notre-Dame there were hundreds of vigil lights, the symbols of prayers, lit by the faithful. (L’Heureux photograph taken in April, 1998.)

It appears no one was hurt by the otherwise destructive fire in the Cathedral. Although restoration of what remains will be challenging to accomplish, the will of the world to rededicated Notre-Dame Cathedral will undoubtedly save the sanctuary from the ashes.

Many thanks to the heroic Parisian firefighters who quickly worked to save what was salvageable in the architecture and to all those who worked to retrieve the precious relics that were inside. Thankfully, three of the inspirational rose stained glass windows were saved from destruction. Hearing about the rescues of anything in the cathedral was awesome news, because the fire that was engulfing the roof and the chilling collapse of the spire in flames, certainly did not give viewers much hope about much of anything surviving.

Cathedral of Notre-Dame Paris France a picture guide photo.

Cathedral of Notre-Dame exterior wall with Madonna and Child. A picture guide photo.

This is a summary about the Cathedral of Notre-Dame was described in one of our Paris tour books:

Building of Notre-Dame began in 1163. Like other European cathedrals, the Notre-Dame Cathedral was built on the site of a Christian basilica dating from the Roman times. In the year 1245, the towers (the ones saved from destruction by the firefighters) were finished.  Finally, in the year 1345, the church could be “said to be finished”.  Nevertheless, with the ravages of time, and the damages caused by men and by numerous wars, the church’s original appearance changed, especially during 1789-1799, French Revolution.

Inside of the cathedral is a huge sanctuary, now without a roof but hopefully to be reconstructed. Its dimensions inside are 426 feet long, 164 feet wide and 115 feet high and the capacity can accommodate as many as 9,000 persons.

President of France Emmanuel Macron has called for the Cathedral of Notre-Dame to be rebuilt “even more beautifully”, within five years, reported in the BBCNews.  “We’ll rebuild Notre-Dame even more beautifully and I want it to be completed in five years, we can do it,” said Mr. Macron, who had already pledged to launch an international fundraising campaign to pay for the reconstruction.

My husband and I are grateful for the opportunity we had to visit the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Moreover, it is our intention to visit again, when the new and more beautiful structure is open to the public.

Juliana L'Heureux

About Juliana L'Heureux

Juliana L’Heureux is a free lance writer who publishes news, blogs and articles about Franco-Americans and the French culture. She has written about the culture in weekly and bi-weekly articles, for the past 27 years.