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!
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February 9, 2020 at 8:13 pm
Would you believe that I was there that day? I visited the towers in the morning and had lunch at the cafe “Chez Panisse” on the Left Bank. I had visited the towers before with school (I grew up in the Latin Quarter) and it was a nice memory. I took some great photos from the top and I was heartbroken when the fire took hold… I’m glad I got to visit that day though, as it’s going to be a long while before it can happen again…
February 12, 2020 at 8:21 am
Good for you you made! We wanted to visit a few weeks before it happened but I could not get tickets. That’s one of these things you always think you can do later on… I doubt we will be able to get up to the towers before many years to come.
April 29, 2019 at 2:31 am
Thank you for your post. Each time I go to Paris, have been three times, we visit it. The exterior only. I love photographing it. We always say, we will go inside on the next trip. Sigh. I loved reading your post, and learned a bit more of the history. I can only imagine how devastating this must be to Parisians.
April 30, 2019 at 5:34 am
It’s often the case, right? “I can do it tomorrow” and we never do… A reminder that things can change so quickly, even for an old lady like that appeared indestructible.
April 18, 2019 at 3:54 pm
I visited Notre Dame with my family when I was a teenager. It was so sad for me to watch that cathedral burn, but fortunately it wasn’t completely destroyed. I’m going to be visiting there later this year with my kids, so we’ll get to see the rebuilding.
April 25, 2019 at 5:41 am
It will indeed take years to rebuild Notre Dame, not only because this is such a massive monument but because the technics and materials will require so many experts in the ancient construction.
April 17, 2019 at 11:58 am
Thank you for sharing this post. I, like so many others, just believed that Notre Dame would still be standing on yet the next visit to Paris. It is heart-breaking to see this historical and religious icon ravaged by fire. She has touched so many people worldwide. My last visit, hymns soared to the rooftops and I was forever grateful to be standing there.
April 25, 2019 at 7:06 am
Hearing the hymns must have been so powerful a moment. One of the last videos I have is hearing the bells from the towers – simply magical.
April 17, 2019 at 9:46 am
We lived in Paris for 10 years. During that time we walked by Notre Dame at least once a week, and sometimes sat down in the little park behind the cathédrale… When we saw how it burned two nights ago, we were really shocked and couldn’t believe what we saw on TV! And when the spire collapsed, it really broke our heart! Macron says it should be rebuilt within the next 5 years… well we’re not sure about that. We can only hope that they won’t replace the damaged parts of the cathedral by a modern glass structure or something! Let’s hope they won’t kill this historical monument even more!
April 25, 2019 at 7:10 am
Lucky you for living in Paris for that long! I was born in the Greater Paris area, but only visited Paris a few times when I was a kid, and a couple of times since then. Notre Dame was and will always be special. I am not convinced about the 5-year plan either, I think this is going to take much longer. And I would not mind either so that they make it right, and not like you said with a modern look. I know they probably can’t make it back to the identical, but I hope they will keep in line with the older architecture design.