Notre Dame stands in the middle of the city on the island where Paris was born. It’s seen centuries of sunrises and sunsets and generations of people have walked in its shadow. On April 15, 2019, fire tore through Notre Dame. Heartbreaking video filled the news with scenes of the roofing ablaze, giant clouds of dark smoke, and most terrible of all, the historic steeple collapsing and falling to ruin.Restoration efforts began shortly after the fire and continue today, with scientists and restorers working diligently to rebuild this treasured cathedral.
A notable and heartwarming event took place at Notre Dame on Good Friday, April 10, 2020. A year after the tragedy, church officials and musicians held a service under the open roof, attended by only seven people. In this time of lockdown from COVID-19, a large group meeting was out of the question. And the cathedral is still a long way from opening again. But small and private as it was, this Holy Week service aimed to show the world that fire and disease and hardship cannot quench hope. The Archbishop said it this way: “A year ago, the cathedral was destroyed. Today the country is ravaged by a pandemic. There’s always a message of hope, and this celebration at the heart of the cathedral will be the sign of our hope.”
Notre Dame Before the Fire
In my trips to Paris, I enjoyed the wonderful opportunity to go to Notre Dame. Here are photos from my visits. Notre Dame doesn’t look like this today, but I want to share with you its former beauty.
Notre Dame in Paris is a French Gothic cathedral built between 1160 and 1260. The two towers give Notre Dame its recognizable look. They were the tallest structures in the city until the arrival in 1889 of the Eiffel Tower.
Notre Dame fell victim to the French Revolution in the 1790s. Its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed. The French, inspired by Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, later decided to restore the grand building. More recently, in the 1960s, the facade of the building was cleaned. Centuries of grime and soot came off, revealing the original color. Further restoration took place at the end of the 1900s to ready the cathedral for the new millennium. The many steeples, graceful arches, sculptures, and gargoyles are amazing from all angles.
Flying buttresses help support the walls of Notre Dame and are visible from the back. No one knows for sure when the original flying buttresses were first added, but they were in place by the end of the 13th century. By carrying so much weight, they allow for higher walls and more windows.
The Iconic Towers Stand Tall
The front of the cathedral remains standing. Members of the Paris Fire Brigade fought tirelessly to save what they could. It’s said to be a miracle that they were able to contain the fire before it reached these twin towers.
The rose window and other stained glass survived the fire, partly due to the careful actions of the fire brigade. Many of the relics inside the cathedral also were saved.
The Restoration Continues
A Symbol of Hope
As the sun shines on the front of Notre Dame, the beauty of this symbol of Paris glows undiminished. Whether Notre Dame hosts crowds of hundreds or only seven, it will continue to offer light for this dark time and hope for the future.
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