A Piece of France’s Heart: The Burning of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris


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The steeple collapses as smoke and flames engulf the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. – A huge fire swept through the roof of the famed Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on April 15, 2019, sending flames and huge clouds of grey smoke billowing into the sky. (Photo by Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT)

Angela McKinzie '21, Staff Writer

On Monday, April 15th, the news broke that a fire was ravaging the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, the over 800 year-old building that has embodied both Catholicism and France since it was first constructed. Parisians and the world alike looked on with devastation and grief as the flames covered the historic beauty and asked two questions: “How did the fire start?” and, “When will the cathedral be repaired?” To the first question on the cause of the fire, investigators are still unsure as to how it actually started. However, they have ruled out the possibility of it being intentional or arson, and they are speculating that an accident that occurred during the construction already taking place in the cathedral was the cause. Though the pictures of the fire seemed catastrophic, many of the timeless paintings, sculptures and artifacts were saved from the destruction. Some of the treasures saved include the rose windows, crown of thorns, Mays de Notre Dame, and the cathedral’s grand organ, to name a few. For now, they will be held at the Louvre for safekeeping until the cathedral is rebuilt. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the nave and flying buttresses of the cathedral.

To the second question about when the cathedral will be repaired, Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, responded with, So, yes, we will rebuild Notre-Dame Cathedral, more beautiful than ever, and I want this to be finished in five years. We can do it, and we will mobilize to do so,” as cited through the New York Times. This statement may become a reality with donations to the Cathedral reportedly reaching an astounding $1 billion in such a short amount of time.  

Macron had hoped that the burning of their lady, an artifact that the Parisians held so dear, would unite the fractured country, but this could not be more far from the truth. The surge of money that went to rebuilding the Cathedral was met by many judgemental, skeptical eyes on the donors and the wealthy. On Saturday, four days after the fire, the activist group, Yellow Vests, set several fires throughout Paris to convey that, “[t]hey are outraged the government could raise more than a billion dollars to help restore the burned Notre Dame cathedral while their demands to fight wealth inequality remain overlooked,” the National Public Radio (NPR) reported. Every Saturday since November, these protesters have marched through Paris to try and persuade Macron to pay attention to the social crisis that has been damaging the working class and elderly. Like the Parisians, Americans are also criticizing the mass amounts of money and are even using this event to draw attention to the fact that Flint, Michigan still does not have clean water—and their water crisis began in 2014.

The beauty of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris has been wounded by this great fire,  but the flames were unable to overtake it completely. Even though the building itself is better than the public had feared, it has brought to light problems that can no longer be repressed in France and, moreover, in the world.