Watching Notre Dame being mauled by the unrelenting flames that engulfed the cathedral on 15thApril via live news was a sight to behold for all the wrong reasons.
Like a stab to the heart of France, onlookers watched in disbelief, as one of the greatest examples of Gothic architecture was disturbingly annihilated. The agonising sadness that reverberated around not just Europe, but the rest of the world, was likened to that of the pain felt when someone dies. The gathering crowd in Paris was aghast, speechless and tearful, and I feel pangs of guilt in admitting that I too was upset at the sight of the burning architectural jewel. It was difficult to comprehend that this supremely important piece of medieval architecture, that had battled so much throughout history, had been left disturbed; a victim of such a cruel event. To many, this was perhaps an over reaction considering the death toll amounted to zero. But why did the destruction of Notre Dame touch so many people and gain such a quick reaction?
The instantaneous donations made by some of France’s wealthiest individuals towards the cause of rebuilding the cathedral are admirable and heart warming to say the least. However, the positive response has been equally met with questions as to why this reaction wasn’t echoed for other disasters such as the ever-worsening climate problem or the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, in which seventy-two people died. The generosity has caused widespread controversy, and the backlash comes at a time when the country has seen Yellow Vest protests for income inequality for 22 consecutive Saturdays. Many feel that it’s wrong to prioritise saving buildings over saving lives. Equally at a time when we are experiencing a worldwide climate crisis, it is also eye opening to discover that the donations of $1 billion raised in two days could have cleared up the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’.
Hearing about the spontaneous benevolence coming in from figures such as François-Henri Pinault (C.E.O. of Paris-based luxury company Kering) and Bernard Arnault (owner of luxury corporation LVMH), it was difficult to imagine it had become a bit of a competition, with one out doing the other within hours. That being said, this level of generosity from figures that have the means to help, demonstrates how important the restoration of this beautiful building is to the people of France and the rest of Europe. After all, it survived the French Revolution and two world wars, so to do anything other than reach out and help would be doing the famous cathedral a disservice. Even now, the vulnerable skeleton of Notre Dame standing silently still embodies the very soul of Paris and goes deeper than being in our history. World famous, not only for its religious significance, its’ historical impact and its’ place in literature, this building is in the hearts of people.
There is huge discussion over the nature of the restoration, as to whether Notre Dame will be rebuilt exactly how she has been standing on the Île de la Cité
since 1345. Or, whether modern techniques, styles and technology will be incorporated into the remodelling. Either way, Notre Dame will rise again and the love felt for this historic treasure will be echoed throughout.