““And if you wish to receive of the ancient city an impression with which the modern one can no longer furnish you, climb--on the morning of some grand festival, beneath the rising sun of Easter or of Pentecost--climb upon some elevated point, whence you command the entire capital; and be present at the wakening of the chimes. Behold, at a signal given from heaven, for it is the sun which gives it, all those churches quiver simultaneously. First come scattered strokes, running from one church to another, as when musicians give warning that they are about to begin. Then, all at once, behold!--for it seems at times, as though the ear also possessed a sight of its own,--behold, rising from each bell tower, something like a column of sound, a cloud of harmony. First, the vibration of each bell mounts straight upwards, pure and, so to speak, isolated from the others, into the splendid morning sky; then, little by little, as they swell they melt together, mingle, are lost in each other, and amalgamate in a magnificent concert. It is no longer anything but a mass of sonorous vibrations incessantly sent forth from the numerous belfries; floats, undulates, bounds, whirls over the city, and prolongs far beyond the horizon the deafening circle of its oscillations.
Nevertheless, this sea of harmony is not a chaos; great and profound as it is, it has not lost its transparency; you behold the windings of each group of notes which escapes from the belfries. ”
― Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
Yesterday evening, a spark grew into a flame and forever changed the facade of Notre Dame, “Our Lady,” Cathedral in Paris, France. She has seen a lot of human events in her over 800 years of existence, some of which marred her. My hope is that the fire, although drastically changing her, will not forever damage her. Her history is linked to those like Joan of Arc, Henry VI of England, and Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon is said to have revived much of the cathedral, as well as Paris, after being in disrepair . So much beauty and history exists in this same place. It’s often a spiritual place for people of the Christian faith from all over the world. It stands near “kilometer zero” of the French highways, meaning it is the literal center of things.
I am just thankful that I got to see it this past September in the form that it has stood in for so many hundreds of years. When I studied in Italy one summer in college, a professor told us the saying that the church was central to every life in Europe, considered a part of “birth, life and death.” A church was where you were baptized at birth, you celebrated things like marriage in life and then of course, held a funeral at your death. We can look at Notre Dame and think about the many lives it was a part of. We will have to look at this fire as the beginning of the next chapter for her and see what lies ahead. I know many will join the efforts to restore and support the revitalization. The thing about Notre Dame is that it took over 300 years to complete in the first place, so those who embarked on starting the cathedral never saw the finished product. It took a work of faith to build something that one would not see in his lifetime.