Notre Dame

Jeremy Lempin photo

notre dame incendieby Roger Childs

It’s an inestimable loss … Notre-Dame de Paris has to live. We must not resign ourselves to this … this is the heritage of all humanity.  Former mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë

We are citizens of the world and the burning of Notre Dame affects us all. Whatever our beliefs, ethnicity and nationality, iconic building and structures around the globe are part of our heritage – Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, the Parthenon, the Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House, the pyramids, the Sphinx and Notre Dame cathedral.

Many readers will have been among the 13 million annual visitors to the cathedral. You would doubtless have stood in awe outside and inside the amazing Gothic structure and perhaps wondered how such a massive church could have been built over 800 years ago. The two towers are 69 metres high.

Construction is believed to have been started in 1163 and completed about 200 years later.  Over the centuries it has been the setting for:-

  • many royal weddings
  • the declaration of Joan of Arc’s sainthood
  • the crowning of Napoleon as Emperor
  • requiem masses for French presidents.

The extensive damage done to the cathedral is a great tragedy, especially for the French people, but also for the world community.  Destruction done to historic structures is especially distressing when those places are hundreds or thousands of years old, and where the demolition has been deliberate. The blowing up in 2001 of ancient Buddhist statues in Afghanistan by the Taliban, and the 2015 demolition of many historic ruins in Palmyra in Syria by the Islamic State jihadists were appalling; the world lost an irreplaceable part of its cultural heritage.

Fortunately, the main part of the cathedral has been saved and President Macron has vowed to see the iconic church rebuilt.

Notre Dame is our history, our literature, part of our psyche, the place of all our great events, our epidemics, our wars, our liberations, the epicentre of our lives … So I solemnly say tonight: we will rebuild it together.