This week has been a week of not-so-good memories and deadlines. April 15 – tax deadline, the Boston Marathon, anniversary week of Columbine shooting, and now it will be marked in history as the week that Notre Dame was on fire .
As many of us were glued to our devices watching the flames from the internationally-known cathedral, we wondered if we were seeing the very last of Notre Dame. How could they rebuild something that magnificent? And if they did, how could it hold the same value as the original 850-year-old structure?
I recalled the day that I had the opportunity to visit Notre Dame when I had just turned 16. I was an exchange student in France and lived in Paris part of the time. Along with the breathtakingly beautiful stained glass windows and magnificent architecture, I was taken aback by the acoustics inside, and imagined what it would be like to sing using a normal voice without sound equipment. I knew the music would resonate beautifully in the old cathedral.
As we later found out, firemen were able to get the fire under control, and much of Notre Dame was saved, including precious historical and religious artifacts inside, saved by a hero priest who also happened to be a firefighter! How cool is that!
Pictures from my non-archival-quality France photo album:
The spire which was destroyed in this fire was not the original spire:
The original spire on top of the cathedral was built during the 13th century, with most historians estimating it to have been at some point during the 1220’s. It remained up for around 500 years but the wind and weather during that time led to the spire becoming unstable and eventually it became bent and damaged. This led to it being removed completed in 1786, and it was until the 19th century that it was rebuilt.
When was the Notre Dame spire built as it collapses during cathedral fire?
Brad/futuristguy found a tweet with very interesting information about Notre Dame. It came from a thread of tweets starting with this one:
Here is the tweet thread:
“The fire department in Paris followed a protocol: Save the people, save the art, save the altar, save what furniture you can, then focus on the structure, in that order. They know what can be rebuilt and what can’t.
This protocol has been in place since the last time the cathedral was destroyed, sacked during the French revolution.
The steeple and the beams supporting it are 160 years old, and oaks for new beams awaits at Versailles, the grown replacements for oaks cut to rebuild after the revolution.
This is The Long Now in action. It’s what happens when you maintain civilization.
Imagine how heartbreaking it must have been to follow the protocol knowing it was all you could do.
It took sixty years to rebuild after the terror. Three Napoleons worth. But it happened, and will happen again.
Versailles oaks. They’re ready.”
Reading this gave me a different perspective. The damage to Notre Dame in this fire is only a blip in its 850-year history. It will survive this blip just as it has survived others. And that bit about the oak trees? Wow – I found that amazing. The oak trees are ready!
I heard several commentators discuss the coincidence of the blaze occurring during Holy Week, and that the building will be “resurrected.” I’ve heard that it may take anywhere between 5 and 15 years. But what is 15 years when compared to its 850-year history? It’s a blink of an eye.
All of this got me thinking about some of us who have been through fires. The fires didn’t kill us, but it stopped us in our tracks and got our attention. Many of us are moving forward and being resurrected because we had someone like that priest/firefighter who came in to rescue us. Or maybe we are being resurrected because something like those tall oak trees were used to renew us. Who or what helped save you? Maybe that rescue happened the way I learned – online, on a survivor blog through people sharing their stories. Or your life could have been redeemed by friends, informative books, etc.
The spiritual abuse I experienced will only be a blip in my life’s story, and it doesn’t define who I am, just as Notre Dame’s 2019 fire does not define it. Abuse is part of my story and has shaped me, and has produced life-changing fruit.
Can you think of any other parallels with the Notre Dame fire and your spiritual life? I’d love to read them.
May you all have a joyous Easter. I’m so grateful that women, who were traditionally marginalized, were the ones God chose to witness the empty tomb and to deliver the first Good News of His Resurrection.