City of Paris Events France History Monument Paris Travel

Notre Âme de Paris

We watched helpless as the flames grew higher engulfing the spire. This massive monument that has endured over 850 years suddenly seemed so fragile.

Parisians, the French and people around the world were stricken dumbfounded at the catastrophe unfolding against the evening sky.

The initial shock left myself and many other speechless. But I found some comfort in The New Yorker article that was published on April 15th by Lauren Collins. It reassured me that certain things from the cathedral had been saved.

I found myself thinking about the first time I saw Notre Dame de Paris. It was the monument I was most intent on seeing on my first real visit to Paris when I was 19. I have included pictures taken from that trip over 20 years ago now. (Please disregard the appalling fashion sense!)

(I had visited at the age of 16 but it was such a whirlwind stopover that we didn’t get to see much). What struck me deeply about this edifice, and it still does, is the incredible endurance of its construction. Humanity doesn’t make things that last this long anymore. Which is what also makes the loss of it so much more tragic. The skills and knowledge needed to create something of this magnitude have barely been kept alive, even in a country such as France where craftsmanship is still revered and important.

It was relieving to hear about the seemingly divine intervention in which the rooster of the spire was spared and found amongst the rubble. It was also relieving to hear how the brave firemen risked their safety to save the relics, and endured the extreme conditions of this pire to put out the wrathful flames.

As answers and explanations are sought by the investigative teams, I have been able to stop being shocked and angry, there will be plenty of time for that later down the road when the inevitable scandals break out and the many most likely interruptions happen to stall the rebuilding. I am skeptical about the French president’s claims that it will be rebuilt in 5 years. It just doesn’t seem probable, and I can’t help but notice that if he gains a second mandate he will certainly revel in the glory a fully repaired cathedral would bring him if in fact a five year rebuild would be possible. That’s a lot of ifs. I dont forsee any of that. No five year rebuild, no glory, and maybe no second mandate for Macron.

But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is also not about the collection of propositions that have been made from around the world about how to reconstruct the roof and spire of the cathedral. Although I do have some strong opinions about them. (Please Lord don’t let them chose the one with the golden flame to replace the spire). 🙏

This post is simply my own outcry about this tragedy that surely could have been avoided if proper safety measures had been strictly followed. But nobody thinks that their haphazard decisions would burn down something that has lasted over 850 years. I mean think about those people who carelessly toss cigarettes out their car window. I’m sure they dont think their banal gesture would kill thousands of age old trees that have been around for thousands of years either. But banal thoughtlessness can destroy things that took ages to build, things that are precious and sacred and irreplaceable.

This may be a lesson for us all to put more thought into the most common of gestures and decisions we make without any reflection. Perhaps we should all have a little more mindfulness about the moments we are in. We who are but on this earth for a fraction of the longevity of Notre Dame de Paris. Why do we place so little thought into most of what we do? If we are as appalled at a flaming centuries old cathedral, we should also be appalled at our mindless flaming society.

So apologies for the analogy, that was not my intent upon starting this post. But it seems so fitting nonetheless. We can all read into the flames what we will. I just hope that most of you are not indifferent. Because Notre Dame is most certainly the soul of Paris; steadfast and weathering time, war and everything inbetween. And Paris’ soul burned frighteningly close to eradication. And lest we all chalk it up to a banal event, I for one prefer to find some meaning in it and put that to good use in my little life.

Bisous de Paris.



  1. I’ve never been to Paris and have never seen Notre Dame, but as the news was coming through I was horrified that something so significant for so many people was buring. Thank you for sharing your post.

  2. “Perhaps we should all have a little more mindfulness about the moments we are in.” That is a wonderful lesson to glean from this sad episode in our collective history, Melissa. It would prevent a lot of senseless and tragic accidents — and it would make us appreciate the treasures we still have, as well. Great post.

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