On that evening of April 15, 2019, the face of Paris changed forever. The most famous cathedral in Paris was on fire. As we watched live, the hundred-year-old roof of Notre Dame Cathedral burned and the famous “flèche” that made Notre Dame de Paris a famous landmark collapsed.
My eyes could not live the sight of the high flames burning relentless. The Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, or Notre Dame as we say in French, stood strong over the centuries, and it was unimaginable to see her ravaged like that, as we stood helpless and hopeless.
Why write this post today? Some may think it’s to surf the wave of search that might lead to an increase in blog traffic. But as a French person, Notre Dame is more than just an attraction worth promoting. It’s our history. It’s a symbol of my country. It’s the beauty of time past. It’s the glory of our culture.
I wanted to keep the memories of Notre Dame in its full glory because that was she should still be. I want to remember her beauty, her uniqueness, her strength. Hence my peaking in photos from our recent trip to Paris, photos I procrastinate to post because Notre Dame was immortal, so there was no rush to publish. How wrong I was. So today, I want to celebrate the most famous cathedral in Paris, and the world even, and feature her beauty inside and out.
The Famous Cathedral in Paris: Notre Dame Cathedral
A Catholic Cathedral built on the Ile de la Cite from 1160 is a one-of-the-kind medieval beauty, the perfect example of French Gothic architecture.
Desecrated in the 1790 French Revolution, the Cathedral of Notre Dame has always been the heart of Paris and French history. From the coronation of Napoleon I in 1804 as Emperor of France, the funerals of former French presidents like Francois Mitterand, the setting of Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame in 1831, and the celebration of the liberation of Paris in 1944, the Notre Dame Cathedral history has been intertwined as well as front and center of all historical events that made France the country it is today.
Seating by the side of the parvis in front of this old yet proud lady, I always felt like the stories of time past was still alive. Knowing how much history each of these stones saw, it’s like I was watching through time as well.
Maybe part of the reasons I always felt so attached to Notre Dame Cathedral comes from hearing about Jean de Chelles and Pierre de Chelles when I was a little girl. Both were from the same town where I grew up in the Greater Paris area, and both were significant architects of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. And seeing the statue of Jehan de Chelles and hearing how he worked on the Cathedral made the famous monument a familiar landmark.
How come a monument that withstood and saw so much could simply go in flames, today, in 2019? Though that day will stay in history as well, it’s not a date to celebrate.
Notre Dame Architecture
The delicate artwork of the statues, the 13th-century flying buttress, the central portal of the front door depicting the Last Judgement, the scary gargoyles, and of course the famous 19th-century cathedral’s spire (flèche), all made Notre Dame unique, a center of Paris’s life, and a treasure to all French people.
Notre Dame interior is as incredible as its exterior and walking by the 13th-century rose stained glass window, the ancient crypt, the marble columns, the 15th-century musical organs is an unforgettable experience. Just thinking about it still gives me goosebumps.
As Paris firefighters struggled to stop the fire inside the 850-year old cathedral, I remember all these treasures. Some of them would be irreplaceable, as the ancient technics have been long lost, or the compositions of some colors remained secret. And as with the Parisians and visitors in Paris, I was speechless.
Notre Dame de Paris Forever
Today, the spire and the central bell tower have collapsed, together with the roof. It would appear that the stained windows are intact, as well as the organs and most paintings, have been spared.
We have yet to know the full extent of the damages. Notre Dame de Paris was a beloved monument, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but as we watched last night, a part of our heart. Not just in Paris or in France, but the world. It was touching to see the outpour of support and emotion from every corner of the planet, every sensibility, every conviction. Our politicians have put politics aside and stand united in proclaiming the future rebuilding of the beloved church. In what may take years to happen, we will wait for Notre Dame de Paris to recover her full glory because she was and will always be Notre Dame – Our Lady.
While Notre Dame is being restored, make sure to make your way to la Sainte Chapelle, a former Royal Church with incredible stained glass windows – some of the most extensive displays in the world!