Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Notre-Dame de Paris Reflections

Mourning The Loss Of History

notre-dame de paris
Notre-Dame de Paris image courtesy of pixabay.com
Today I will be reviewing some history of Notre-Dame de Paris with you. The world watched in horror and shock yesterday, 04/15/2019, as this beautiful historical landmark of Paris burned. Whether you are a member of the Catholic Church or not, the loss of this beautiful cathedral that had survived wars and rebellions for over 800 years was devastating to see. This icon of the city of Paris and the country of France will never be the same. 

Our Lady Of Paris, the English translation of Notre-Dame de Paris, was commissioned to be built in 1160 by Bishop Maurice de Sully. He would never see his dream fulfilled of the French Gothic structure because it took almost 200 years for the church to be completed. It does not appear that the Bishop randomly chose a site for the cathedral to be constructed. He must have felt that there was something sacred about the land, at least I feel that way. A religious structure of one kind or another had been on that piece of ground since the days of the Roman Empire. A Gallo-Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter was the first known structure. Four churches would eventually replace the temple before Notre-Dame began to be built. A 4th Century basilica dedicated to Saint Stephen was the first. In the 7th Century the basilica was replaced with a cathedral for Childebert I who I happen to be a descendant of. Two renovations of the Romanesque style churches followed. The Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, opted to demolish the existing building but did recycle many of the materials for what would become the most popular tourist attraction of France and the city of Paris.

As I watched the soaring red flames lighting the sky of Paris yesterday, one of the factoids by a reporter caught my attention. Something like 52 acres of wood had been used to construct the portion of Notre Dame that burned. It was often referred to as The Forest. No wonder it seemed to be consumed by fire so quickly! The timber had been drying for over 800 years. 

You might have assumed as I had that this historical cathedral belongs to the Vatican and the Catholic Church. The statement of President Macron that Notre-Dame de Paris would be re-built baffled me at first. Why would he be so committed to re-building when the French Government feels so strongly about the separation of church and state? Wouldn't it be up to the Pope to decide on what to do? Well, a little searching on my part revealed the answer. A law in 1905 made the famous cathedral the property of the French state. The Catholic Church is the designated beneficiary with the exclusive right to use the building for religious purposes. The paying of employees, the maintenance of the building, the utilities, security and other expenses are the responsibility of the Archdiocese. The Catholic Church does not receive any subsidies from the French Government. I found that fascinating to say the least.

If you would like to find out more about the history and architecture of the cathedral, there is a wonderful book that you can purchase. 

 They may be able to build a new structure but it can never be what stood before. There are not artisans today like the ones who built the original. The amazing craftsmanship of the past would be very difficult to replicate. 



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6 comments:

  1. Words cannot express how very heart-sick I was watching the coverage yesterday. Such a beautiful cathedral, so much history. I have been there a few times, but have never felt like I got to see it all. Seemed like every time I visited, I discovered something new and wonderful. I was relieved to hear on the news last night that they were able to save the crown of thorns, but I know France, and Christians everywhere, have suffered a great loss. Still, even as I write those words, I am reminded that our real church is safe and secure within our hearts and souls. "His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:14)

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  2. Watching the fire at this beloved Cathedral was heart stopping. Thank you for the history - I too had no idea France is the owner of Notre Dame.

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  3. My son felt this loss deeply as he & his wife visited there on their trip to France two years ago. Such a shame such a famous icon has been destroyed. Hopefully some of it can be salvaged and the cathedral rebuilt. Although I agree with you, Bev, that the craftsmanship of long ago has been lost forever. Thank you for this interesting history of Notre-Dame de Paris.

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  4. Yesterday my heart hurt! Watching those flames eat up Notre Dame was just beyond words for me to describe. I was just a child when I first saw this amazing church. The world has definitely lost a great reminder of the history, art and devotion that has made it not only Notre Dame de Paris, but Notre Dame de la Monde!

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  5. Notre-Dame de Paris is beloved by millions of people of all faiths. It is heartening to see the outpouring of support for the rebuilding effort. Thank you for sharing the history of this very special and iconic cathedral.

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  6. So many historical pieces being ruined. It's a shame. I'd never thought much about Notre-Dame de Paris, but it is a horrible tragedy to lose this beautiful work of art.

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