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Photo: Chris Waits On April 15, 2019 a fire broke out at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris. As the world watched, stunned to see this incredible 856 year old building suffer from the flames, we shared our hopes on Facebook that the damage would not be catastrophic. Hundreds of thousands of our Facebook followers shared photos from their visits and posted of their sadness and of what this ancient monument meant to them. More than just a church, Notre-Dame is the soul of Paris. History of Notre-Dame The creation of Notre-Dame took almost 200 years. The first stone was laid in 1163 at a ceremony attended by Pope Alexander III. It was commissioned by Maurice de Sully, Bishop of Paris who wanted to build a church that would be the most wonderous in Christendom. He died 150 years before the main structure was begun but he did have time to hold the first mass in the Cathedral to be. Notre-Dame provided a backdrop to the lives of Parisians throughout the centuries. Enduring through the reigns of kings and wars. She wasn’t always loved, during the French Revolution, statues were destroyed, it’s treasures and roof tiles were pillaged. When Victor Hugo wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1831, he professed his sadness and disgust at what such a “venerable monument” had suffered. In 1844 a 25 year long restoration began and Notre-Dame emerged at last fulfilling Hugo’s claim that it was the “central mother church”. Restoration after the fire Despite the ominous sight of the spire toppling during the fire at Notre-Dame, experts say that much was saved and a huge restoration has begun. The French senate has declared that the Cathedral will be restored to exactly the way it was before the devastation and it is expected to be complete in time for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.
We'd like to share just a few of the hundreds and hundreds of comments left on our Facebook page. You can read all of them here and here and here on our Facebook page. My favorite memory of Notre Dame occurred during a random stroll in the early morning hours of a chilly late November day in 2016. As awe-inspiring as Paris is during the day, I found night to be the best time to explore to her streets, when there were no people to be seen, and the only sound to be heard was the occasional clinging of silverware from her famed street cafes. I was fortunate to have met so many phenomenal people during my time in Paris, but I was truly happiest when my only companions were the City and my thoughts. That night, like others, my route had no defined plan. As I left the Latin Quarter, I decided that tonight would be a good night for my first stroll along the Seine’s Right Bank and that I would loop back towards my apartment in Saint Germain. I crossed the bridge to Île de la Cité and shot a quick glance towards Notre Dame, the subject of my very first picture in Paris and at least 100 since. This Notre Dame I had never seen. While the City of Light needs no assistance holding this title, the moon sat perfectly aligned between the elegant lady’s bell towers, casting a light that even Paris cannot replicate. I instinctively reached for my camera, frustrated that tonight of all nights I left my tripod at home. I snapped picture after picture after picture, but it wasn’t until after I had resigned myself to the fact I had taken the best picture I would get sans my equipment that I allowed myself to take in the beauty before my eyes. I leaned in on the bridge and lost myself in the fleeting moment. For minutes, the Lady of Paris was mine and mine alone. When the moon finally decided to interrupt us and slid behind one of the bell towers, I said adieu and made my way back to my apartment, content that tonight could not get any better, and the Right Bank would have to wait until another night. I returned to Notre Dame the following night and many more with the hopes of perfecting “the shot,” but the moon always had other plans. As I reflect on what Notre Dame means to me, I at long last can empathize with The Little Prince and his beloved Rose. As St. Exupery stated so much more eloquently than I am capable, the most beautiful things in our world are ephemeral, or that “which is in danger of speedy disappearance.” Neither my memory of Notre Dame that night, nor Notre Dame herself, will endure forever, but rather than mourn the mortality of our memories, loved ones, and the places we love, I am grateful that I was lucky enough to cross paths with her during the short time our paths crossed. I never did get that “perfect shot” of Notre Dame with my equipment, but, looking back, I realize the memory of that night is all I need. My memory of that night is but one star in the galaxy of billions Notre Dame has created, and though I grieve among the other lucky stargazers she has blessed, I find solace knowing that the dark skies before us now will subside. France, as she always has done, will persevere, and Notre Dame will regain her throne as the brightest light in Paris. David Barnes, California, USA
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