The eyes of the world turned Monday to Paris, as fire engulfed the cathedral of Notre Dame. Even if you’ve never visited it, or worshipped inside it, it was tragic to see the 800+ year-old building in flames. And while the destruction was significant, priceless artifacts and works or art were saved, thanks to the people of the Paris fire brigades.
My wife and I watched the ongoing news coverage and kept looking at each other. The night before, we had watched the first episode of Les Misérables on PBS. We had just been talking about the writer Victor Hugo and his exile on the island of Guernsey, the Franco-Prussian War which ended in France’s defeat, and the Paris Commune. A few hours before the fire started, I had published a review of the novel Paris in the Present Tense by Mark Helprin. And it was almost exactly 20 years that we had visited Notre Dame during a trip to Paris. All these odd coincidences.
It didn’t take long for people to attempt to put the tragedy into words. Jake Meador at Mere Orthodoxy considers the symbol of the burning as a symbol of the end of Christendom. Jen Oshman prayed for God to bring beauty from the ashes. Rod Dreher saw a post-fire photo of the famous rose window that survived and found hope in the ruins. Poet Kathleen wrote a poem entitled “Ask;” I wrote one myself called “Interior Darkness,” connecting the fire to our 1999 visit. Terry Mattingly at Get Religion looked at how the news media covered the fire – and found some significant differences.
It was so encouraging to hear the responses – the announced donations by French businessmen, the support pouring in from around the world – and the news of the saving of the art, artifacts, and the famous rose windows.
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Art and Photography
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Paris's Medieval muse: ten of the most famous works of art inspired by Notre Dame – Aimee Dawson and Kabir Jhala at The Art Newspaper.
Voices from the Past – Beryl Kingston at English Historical Fiction Authors.
Cappodocia – Jeff Johnson and Phila Keaggy
Painting: Man Reading, oil on canvas by Emmanuel Levy (1900-1986), Ben Uri Gallery and Museum, London.